Guest Blog : The Making of a Baby Quilt by Jessica

Over February half term I decided to make a baby quilt, well more like a throw. I made it as a gift to my form tutor, as his partner has just had a baby. He’s also been my form tutor for the last five years so it’s also as a thank you gift. I go to sewing classes with Gill Towell of Gillymac Designs where I have made three different and unique quilts. We have also entered two quilts as a group for the National Festival of Quilts. We came 2nd with one and got highly commended in the other.

I started by looking for fabric suitable for baby boys and found that there were lots. I then had to work out what size I needed and how many squares I needed. I bought a fat quarter bundle which came with 5 different materials. As I was short of a few squares, I bought another bundle which I thought has colours in it which would bring all the fabric together  – which indeed it did!

I started off by drawing out my pattern and seeing which patterns would work well together. I then assembled it by making blocks of 9, 3 across 3 down. I decided to have 6 squares going across by 9 squares down. Once I had made the patchwork top centre,  I added the borders which I decided to have white so that it would accentuate all of the colours in the main panel. After that, I glued it to the backing using temporary glue. I then quilted the whole thing using a walking foot creating a grid design. I finished the quilt by making my own binding and sewing it around the edge. This gave the quilt a nice finish and made the whole thing come together.

The most challenging bit was adding the binding and trying to make it look neat at the corners. I also found matching the fabrics and making it look nice was quite difficult and took a long time.

My favourite part of the quilt is how it all comes together and how the colours work well. I like how the binding finishes the edges and how it brings it all together. I would definitely make it again as I had so much fun making it. There is so much effort and concentration involved and I have learnt so much from doing it.

I would do it the same way because it’s a great design and I like the way in which it turned out.

I am giving it away sometime next week before my form tutor goes on paternity leave.

FreeSpirit & What This Means For Us

The announcement this week from Coats (owners of FreeSpirit Fabrics) was shocking in its swiftness, but the writing has been on the wall for some time, had we chosen to look at it. Coats business is dominated by its ‘Industrial’ business (around 70%) – which sells clothing footwear, threads and materials to industry. A much smaller part of the business is the Global ‘Crafts’ business – which makes and sells things to crafters, just like us.

Last Summer Coats closed it’s UK Coats Crafts business. This restructuring was an early indication that their business model was not working.  In July last year Coats posted its Half Year Results and these showed how the Craft business was performing.  It shows the Craft business was surviving on margins of ~3% in 2016 and ~6% in 2017, whereas the rest of the business was running on margins double and triple this. Then late last year, in November,  Coats posted a Trading Update which shows a decline in Coats Craft sales by 10% year on year. So in summary, Coasts had a small part of its business which was underperforming the dominant part and which was now in decline. In this light, shutting the business down maybe wasn’t such a hard decision to make.

In the trading results, there is mention of a large customer of Coats who has now started its own brand of wool and the effect that this has had on the Coats Craft business. There is also mention of the poorly performing US market. These seem a little unbelievable as the key reasons for the business failure. However, when a business fails, you will often find that the reason for the failure is something to do with the external market and never how it was it was set up, the contractual terms it had previously agreed or the way it was run.

I feel qualified to talk about business failure, having worked in telecoms for 20 years. There was a business for which the writing was on the wall, but when the wall fell on us all it was shocking and painful. With the Coats Craft business, we maybe won’t know for a while why the business really failed. The contracts with the designers would not have been inexpensive. I understand that almost all fabric is printed in South Korea so were the base products, colours and dyes really significantly different from other manufacturers? I can’t see that they were. Maybe the contractual commitments made to designers and manufacturers were so out of whack with the market that the only option was to shut down the business.

Like in telecoms, it is sad for the Coats Crafts employees, designers and the manufacturers affected, but I wonder if there will be knock-on problems for some fabric stores here in the UK.  These stores will have created there business plans for this year and next on the basis of a number of drops of new fabric collections from Coats that we would intern buy. This will not happen now, as even if the designers sign quickly for other companies, there will be a delay in production and supply of at least 6 months. So actually, our indignation at not being able to buy a fabric collection when it was planned should really be a concern for our local market, as the more fabric shops there are, the more competitive the prices will be and the more frequent and lucrative the deals will be. Now is the time to support our stores and not rely on our stash if we want our piece of the market to flourish.

 

Allow Yourself a Bad Idea…

Yesterday I had an extremely rare term time Saturday off from teaching my lovely teen classes and attended a lecture by Tula Pink, a young Amercian textile designer, who now lives just outside Kansas City.

If you don’t know Tula’s work then it is really worth having a look at her Collections.  They are beautiful,  often with the larger designs based on aminals buried within intricate curvy patterns with colour choices stand apart from other designers in the market.

Whilst listening to Tula describe her design process, she said something that really resonated with me – and I know it will resonate with many of my pupils. She said that she has learnt to no longer be afraid of a bad idea, in fact, she encourages a bad idea. When she gets a new journal for her designs, she scrawls over the first page, as now nothing in the book will be as bad as that first page. She explained that, for her, a bad idea is part of the process of having a good idea. She also said that a ‘block’ occurs when you dont give yourself the chance to have a bad idea. She believes her ratio is about 9-1 bad ideas to good ones.

Let us just think about this. So now, if I follow her suggestions,  tomorrow, instead of getting frustrated that I want to come up with an exciting idea for a quilt I need to make for an exhibition this year (and my current ideas are a bit rubbish)… now I can relax .. this is part of the process – a proper, successful professional designer says so. It takes the stress away … I feel better already and more excited about designing a quilt.

Why have I not thought of this before? In some ways I have.  I tell my pupils that I can solve their problems because I have made every single mistake they have made myself. I often make Katie laugh in the car home from school.  telling her about all the mistakes I have made that particular day, as she tells me about a tiny thing that has gone wrong for her… I think these things are similar. However, I see teen and adult pupils getting cross with themselves when they dont get’ that point’ perfect or the quilting design nailed on the first try. So now I will try and remind them (and me) of these words from Tula… Don’t be afraid of a bad idea – it is part of the process.

From Monday 5th Feb 2018 to Monday 12th Feb 2018, GillyMac Designs will be running an Instagram and Facebook competition to win a Tula Pink’s “All Star” Fabric Bundle – available here a whole 5 weeks prior to market launch.

Tula’s Next Range – ” All Stars”

 

STOP PRESS : New Year Delayed until 1st Feb

Twenty eighteen may be well underway, but,  even though the tree is down, the decorations are away and my tax is done (hurrah),  the start of my New Year is on hold until 1st February to allow me to complete more of my  ‘2017 Finishing Off List’.

There is something particularly satisfying about completing projects, and for me, there is a balance between having things on the go that I am enjoying making, which add variety to my week and which can showcase the business and then, on the other hand,  having way too much on my plate of which very little will ever get finished. Apart from in the Summer, when the push to get the girls’ projects finished for the Festival of Quilts consumed my every breath, I’ve not done too bad – thanks in the main to help along the way from Deborah and my lists to keep me focused.

I have just loaded the GillyMac gallery (see tab above) with the final images from 2017 with many of the gorgeous items made here this year. They are just a small sample of the creativity of the GillyMac Pupils.  I know that there is never a time when I will have everything completed and that thought can be overwhelming, but I started sewing to enjoy the journey, not just to complete the task… and when it all gets too much and Annie’s quilt is still not finished, or the PJs for the girls I wanted to make for Christmas are left unmade, or the quilting for the Linus project is not even started…… I need to remember to enjoy every moment of my creative time – as it is precious and important for being what it is… special time.

Defining Your Own Colour Story

It is very easy to buy a bundle of fabrics, all from the same range, because the colour combination (often called a colour story) will have been worked out for you. In the Tula Pink Tabby Road Collection, the ‘Strawberry Fields’ colourway has red grouped with pink, aqua, green and cream and it looks fantastic. I’m not sure, if faced with a blank page, I would have come up with this group, but actually, I should probably have more faith my understanding of colour,  because the basics aren’t so hard. First, you need some inspiration, like a fabric, or colour or pattern. Then you need to find fabrics and check the colour value or tone to get a good mix. So in three steps, you have it cracked? Yeah … well … maybe there is more to it …. but really, not a lot more. Let’s go through the steps.

Inspiration

You need a starting point. That is your inspiration… as I said, it could be anything as simple as a fabric you like, or a picture you want to create a quilt around, it could be the favourite colour of the person you are going to give the quilt to, it could be seasonal colours – it could be anything.

Colour Combination

Once you have a colour to start with, then you need to understand the colour wheel.

In the colour wheel above, the solid triangle is pointing to the Primary Colours of yellow, red and blue. Those are the colours which are used to create all the others on the wheel. The dashed triangle is pointing to the secondary colours. Those are the colours that are created by mixing the primary ones. For example, red and blue create purple and so on. The colours not touched by either triangle are the Tertiary Colours – these are created by mixing primary and secondary colours. There are many shades of tertiary colours. These colours around the wheel are often referred to hues of colour.

Next to learn is how to combine colours successfully.  Colours opposite each other on the colour wheel are complementary. So, referring to the colour wheel above, yellow’s complementary colours are plum, purple and violet, and red’s complementary colours are green, turquoise and lime. Colours that are close to each other on the colour wheel are referred to as analogous and can be clearly seen to co-ordinate. Finally, the colours from yellow, clockwise around the wheel, finishing with plum are known as ‘warm colours’ and those from purple around to lime are know as ‘cold colours’.

Tone and Value

The first step is all about understanding what colour tone (sometimes called value) actually is. It is not complicated to understand this, so let’s take an example. If we take green – any green – then there isn’t just one tone of the colour, there are many. Think about a paint colour card. In the diagram below various amounts of whites and blacks (shades of grey) are added to the green base colour to create this range of tones. Often you will see a colour wheel with the colours around the outside and the tones of those colours merging inwards toward the centre. So if you decided to use a green – first pick the right hue of green (for example a lime green or a moss green or an olive green etc)  and then pick the right tone for your project.  When people talk about colour value, this is all they mean. What we call ‘rich’ colours have a  deep tone (high value) and pastel colours have a low tone (light value).

If you want to check the relative value of a group of fabrics. Lay the fabrics out together and take a picture of them – then turn the picture to black and white. In this way, you can immediately see the values. Try and aim for a mix of values in the quilts you make.

In Summary

So that is it – now you are ready to create your own colour story using your inspiration for the starting point, the colour wheel to get the right base colours and then a good mix of tones/values to create interest in your piece.   Don’t forget to give your colour story a great name,  like “Strawberry Fields”, or “Marmalade” which Tula used in her Tabby Road Collection!

In saying this, the most important thing in picking the colours and fabrics for your quilts is that you like them – so treat all this as a guide and not a rule!

Should you want to go on and create your own colour wheel, then Tula Pink’s free pattern “Moxie” could easily be used to do so by replacing the recommended fabrics with solid colours in the right tones.

Good Luck and please feel free to share your work with me @gillymacdesigns on Instagram or GillyMac Designs on facebook.

Good textile-focused colour wheels can be purchased from Lady Sew and Sew and Plush Addict  I haven’t found a good one yet on Amazon!

 

 

Working from Base Camp

I am no stranger to working on my holidays. After years of corporate life, where everything was urgent, nothing could wait and my phone was constantly ringing (with bad news), not working would be shocking. However now working on this holiday, isn’t really work, it is building a small business, creating projects that I think people will enjoy, whilst using fabrics that I think will inspire. In the Lake District, I can do this whilst Katie and Brian fell walk – everyone is happy

We’ve been away for two weeks, staying on Ullswater. It is the only place in the UK, other than the Hebrides, that I’ve been where the daylight changes the colour of the surrounding landscape so dramatically, often hour by hour and certainly every evening. I love doing anything by this light because almost every time you look out the window the palette of colours has changed again.

We don’t particularly come here hoping to get good weather. Good weather is a bonus, but slowing down our pace of life and changing the way we operate for two weeks is all we truly need. My business allows me to be a ‘base camp’ for Katie and Brian who like to plan a walk, get dropped off in one location and get collected somewhere else. Katie is becoming quite an accomplished walker. She knows how to plan, what to take and how to both fuel and pace herself. I think this year is the first that she is setting the pace rather than Brian, but she sees it as a team game and that is all part of it.

This afternoon I have come down to Glenridding to plan my class schedule whilst they take out a rowing boat. It is cooler today, but they are still keen to get out on the water all the same. Later, I will be back at base camp, looking out over cattle and fields and further onto Ullswater.  I am able to sew with a magnificent view, preparing Winter class samples and writing spartan notes that will eventually become class methods. Perfect !

Gill’s new class list is now on the website and pictures of her sewing whilst away in Ullswater this year are on the website gallery.

GillyMac Dawn til Dusk Sewathon

If you didn’t already know (how could you not know !) , on 22nd September we held a Dawn til Dusk Sewathon in support of Macmillan Cancer Support. From 7am until 7pm there was a flow of adults and then after school children and teens arriving at the studio in Westfield Road. The participants enthusiastically sewed squares together all day, making 15 quilts over the 12 hours.
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Julia’s First Ever Patchwork

It was a great team and community effort. Pupils, past pupils, friends, and neighbours came together to sew and eat cake ! By sewing precut squares into blocks of three by three, Deborah Ransom and Jean Cozens co-ordinated the assembling of colourful quilts in cot size and bed size. The day flew because of the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the flow of people through the studio on the day. We even had some very young helpers !

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Allegra having a rest !

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Jordi enjoying the Tuffet !

For me, the day was a moment in time of the spirit of sewing within a community of volunteers. That spirit is continuing through a group of volunteers that are helping with all the quilting and binding need for each of the quilts.
All of the quilts made are being donated to Project Linus, a charity which provides handmade quilts to poorly children and child carers across the UK. The quilts made during the Sewathon will be distributed across Berkshire. The day also raised more than £650 for Macmillan Cancer Support which I have just dropped off at the bank.
This isn’t something we can repeat annually as it takes an awful lot of effort by all those involved, but I hope we can have another Dawn til Dusk event in 2018 and maybe even try and break our record of 15 quilts ! I’ll keep you updated with how the completion of the quilts go and the reception we get when they are handed over to Project Linus in November.
Thank you all very much for taking part – it was amazing !
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A Little Bit of EPP & Relaxation

After a pretty hectic summer, I now have time to breath as do a little of what I fancy. In saying that, there are many things I need to do to prepare for Autumn classes, catch up on admin for Gillymac, construct and finish my block swap quilt, and of course I need to order lots tuffet supplies…. cook dinners, plan activities, roll over that start of Katie’s new term in my mind so nothing gets forgotten… You see what I mean ! We are all the same I am sure. IMG_7044

However, with that in mind I did none of it yesterday and spent the day preparing 1″ hexagon pieces for an American English Paper Piecing (EPP) swap. I saw the swap on Instagram whilst on my never ending quest to be more modern and ‘with it’. The deal is that I prepare 60 hexagons, 10 of each in red, orange, yellow, green, purple and blue – it is a rainbow swap. You then post them off to a co-ordinator who is located in Georgia, and she posts back an equivalent mix prepared by other people around the world. After that we all make something and post it on Instagram. It’s different and fun and EPP is something I never have time for so this made me sit down and relax yesterday preparing them. I’m really pleased with the outcome. 

So now I need to wait for my allotted batch to be returned to mid in mid-September and in the meantime I will be thinking about how to best use what comes back. It will be a cushion or a bag front I think … But I will enjoy researching and drawing out my ideas in the meantime. I started sewing again 11 years ago to escape from the pressure of life, and it is important to centre yourself from time to time and do fun things like this. 

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Ps. If you are happy to attempt to be ‘with it’ on Instagram (I do try) you can see how the rainbow hexi swap is going in pictures by searching #rainbowhexiswap 

The GillyMac Club is Launched !

Now that there quite a few people coming along to classes and so many brilliant things are being created, it has been on my mind to find a way to share more of what we do just between ourselves.  I already post some of the work in my gallery page on this website,  and of course there is the very active facebook page I run for GillyMac Designs, however many of you are often doing similar projects but are in different classes, and it would be great if you were able to share your work directly without it being in an open forum.

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Earlier in the year Tracy and I were discussing how to create such a group and  luckily for me she has come up with just the thing ! We haven’t solved the problem if you are not on facebook, but the majority of you are and I will continue to think about how we can include everyone. Now, if you have been to a GillyMac Class, you can apply to access the GillyMac Club, where you will find (currently) 26 photo albums from each of the various classes I teach, full of class samples made by me, or items others have made in classes. There are over 700 photos uploaded. I know I am missing some of your lovely work and so if you have made something in a class and you cant find it … don’t despair, you are able to upload photos to albums yourself and I would encourage you to do so.

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To find the group – simply search for it in the top search bar on your facebook book page. I have invited a number of you to join it already. When I am sending you the invite you will automatically get access. Alternatively, you can proactively look for the group and ask to join. It may take Tracy or I 24 hours to approve you, so just hang in there we will do it as quickly as we can. Everyone who has been on one of my classes at home, at Liberty, at Juberry, Lady Sew and Sew or at the various quilt groups I’ve spoken and taught at can join. The group is accessible from whatever device you use to view facebook – however for the best access to the photos and the albums I have found it ideal to use my laptop.

I have written a few words about the protocol of the group. This is just about not reusing photos that are not your own. Please would you scan over it. I’m sure there will be no issues.

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So that’s it. I hope we can make it a useful forum to share information and pictures… Gill

GillyMac’s Top 10 Patchwork & Quilting Apps

Recently I have been researching the world of applications for patchwork and quilting to see what’s out there. In teaching,  I already regularly use a few, but I was ask to write an article for an online publication so I thought I’d share my top tips. Below you will find a mixture of free and paid for applications all for use in an IOS (Apple) environment. I’ve noted the version and latest development date, as this will also give you an indication of the progressive nature of the app.

10. Doodle Buddy (v1.7 2016)  free – To improve you skills in free motion quilting you need to practice practice practice!! This isn’t always possible at the machine, but using your iPad or iPhone the Doodle Buddy app is like an Etch-a-Sketch (for those of us of a certain age ) allowing you to practice drawing out your quilting designs over coffee, in front of the TV, waiting for kids on the school run or at sport etc… This app is really useful and a must have.image5
9.  Photo Pen HD  – lite version (v1.4 2012) free – having practiced your Free Motion Quilting, (FMQ), now you need to decide how to quilt a real block or quilt. Using this app you import a photo of your block or quilt and use the app to draw your quilting designs on top of the photo. It’s easy and effective. The resulting picture can be saved to your photo stream and printed out to have beside you as you tackle your project on the machine. Brilliant ! We use this application often in my classes.

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8BlockFab (v1 2010) – free.  This is not a quilt design tool but is a library of 70 blocks that you can view in a number of preset colour combinations and as a group of blocks. The app calculates the fabric required for a block, but not for a quilt. The most useful part of this app for me is the preset colour combinations, These are good colour mixes which I have used in other applications and for ideas for my own quilts colour choices.

7.  Quilting Wizard (v1.0.2 2013)- £3.99. This is a low cost quilt design app that allows you to import your own fabric images and incorporate them into over a 100 different preset blocks. Quilts can be made square on or on point, with bindings and sashing options. Fabric requirements are generated, however there is no ability to created your own custom block design.

 6 . ArtRage – ( v2.1 2015) – £3.99.  Built for art drawing with a strong professional development team behind it, this app can be used for patchwork design as taught by Lady Sew & Sew (www.ladysewandsew.co.uk). With this application you are able to import pictures of your fabrics and build bespoke quilt designs (there are no preset blocks). Great for those artists among us who don’t want to be constrained by traditional blocks. ArtRage does not calculate fabric requirements, but you should never rely on apps that do so without calculating fabric requirements yourself anyhow. If you want to use this app for P&Q you will need to go on the course, as currently there is no book or user notes for this use of the application. It is all very useful for free motion design practice as well !

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5 . Craftsy – (v3.3.3 2016)  free – There is nothing like a face-to-face lesson, but coming a close second is the Craftsy platform. This is available on a PC as well, but the Craftsy app is designed for optimum use with Apple devices. Use of the platform is free and you purchase patterns and classes as you want them, however there is a plethora of free stuff available as well. Don’t be the last person to find out about Craftsy – it is great !

4. QuiltingCalc by Robert Kaufmann (v2.3 2014) – free -This is a super useful free app. It calculates the best way to cut shapes from a piece of fabric, how much fabric is needed for backings, borders and bindings, as well as having many different basic measuring features. This is a really useful app to have on an iPhone which can be used in the heat of shopping !

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3. Free Motion Quilting Ideas ( v1.1 2016)  – £2.99 – I bought the book first (Free Motion Quilting Idea Book)which is packed with ideas  and practical applications for quilting basic shapes. The app is just the same, walking you through 16 really useful basic designs and then developing your FMQ by applying those designed to triangles, rectangles, circles etc through the use of embedded videos (so there is no need for WiFi connectivity to use this app).

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2 . Quilting Tutorials by Missouri Star Quilting (v2.3 2015)  – free – I love Jenny from the MSQC she is very entertaining. This application is regularly updated with new classes, as if the 100s of tutorials and quilts already available are not enough. Each tutorial I’ve watched is engaging, and full of useful tips. With this number of tutorials as well as the ability to order fabric via the app you could stay at home for years quilting with Jenny.

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1 . Quiltography –(v1.41  2015 ) £10.99 – yes it is worth it. For the cost of a couple of magazines and a coffee, you will get hours of fun from this application. Use the extensive library of traditional blocks or build  your own custom one on a grid size of your own choice. Photograph and import pictures of your own fabrics and create quilts with borders and sashing with customer or traditional blocks. In addition, for those of us who like pixilated quilts, the app allows you to import a picture, pixilate it using however many colours you wish, and created a pdf pattern for you to follow which includes fabric requirements. There are limitations, I find the fixed nature of the use of borders annoying, but all in all it is easy and enjoyable to use and has all you need to create some great quilts.

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So that it … hours of fun for you with these apps ahead ! Enjoy ! … and in you have questions email me at mail@gillymacdesigns.com.