The Important Thing About Equipment 

I’ll let you into a secret….. You don’t need the most expensive gear to get a result. Really. I’m currently breaking in a replacement pair of walking boots. Cost £35. Okay, they wouldn’t be enough if I was going to the Antarctic but I’m not. They need to survive a bit of rain and probably a couple of muddy camps and they will do that. If I properly take up Munro bagging (that habit of all good mountaineers where it’s a proper challenge to climb every Munro height [over 3000 feet] molehill in Scotland [there’s 282 of them]) then yes I will invest in something maybe a little more robust.

The same is true about sewing. I started with remnants of fabrics and hand sewing. Now I have 2 machines and a stash of fabrics. When the west of America was still wild, women would make their quilts with fabrics to hand, some bought in for the purpose but also seed bags or feed sacks. I’m not kidding – Google books If they can do it so can you. Please don’t be fooled or put off by the amount of gear people have. Some of my most useful items are cheap or not even made with sewing in mind at all, like my squared jotter for creating the layouts of quilts. 

Believe in yourself and try.


I have a confession….

My name is Claire.

I’m 32 years old and have been sewing since I was a kid.

I hate the word sewist.

I am a quilter, embroider, an artist, a crafty person but I do not and never will call myself a sewist.

In all fairness it might be how it sounds in my Glaswegian accent but I really just don’t like the word. It feels too general. Be a tailor or tailoress, seamstress, quilter (or whatever branch of quilting you love – art, modern, miniature), embroider… Be whatever you want to be, there will be a lovely name for it and a band of people who will love you and your work. There is a converse to my argument saying that one word will band us together but to me I would rather be called something much more specific. I’m not much of a dressmaker and don’t want to take the shine away from those amazing people who can do a set-in sleeve. So why lump us together?

The Story of the Festival of Quilts Entry

I’ve been super busy with family and the 9-5 recently, although I haven’t stopped sewing. One decision I did have to make was my entry for Festival of Quilts. Yes I said entry not entries.

Originally I did have 2 but I’ve made the decision to cut back so that my lack of time won’t impact on the quality of the entry that is nowhere near finished at the moment. That does mean that I can show you photos of it now.

This is Crazy year and it was destined for this year’s Festival, now maybe you will get to see it next year. At this point it isn’t yet up to the right size. The minimum is for a side of a meter and the main central area is only about 60cm (or 2 foot in old money).

Almost assembled quilt top
Currently it has an extra white border which actually helps balance it out and shoves it over the minimum. I love the pieced squares and I do have 52 left over blocks of 4 which may, or may not, end up as the back. Considering it is a wall hanging quilt I’m not fussy about what will be on the back other than the label…oh and the orphan block which didn’t make it on to the front. Crazy year is still awaiting hand embroidery and machine quilting. That’s mostly why it’s on hold, the time needed to make the best of every block isn’t going to be a feature of my life any time soon. There’s even a tub of buttons waiting to be added to it. So Crazy year will be finished, I can promise you that.

The Jess Glynne ticket block

Pet Shop Boys – not the final lanyard placement

All the blocks in one of the trial layouts before I added ribbon/lanyard/wristband.

The raw edges before cutting down. Final block is 3.5 x 6.5 inches.

Selfish Sewing

In all fairness to my sewing it’s nearly all done for my own pleasure. However when I’m in the middle of big projects with deadlines (that are not in the super near future) I almost lose the will to go on…. Sometimes I stop all together but then I struggle to start again. 

This time at least I’m still at my machine. In between sessions with the 2 projects for Festival of Quilts, I’ve been working on a needle book. I hope it will have enough space for my (stupidly) large needle collection. Plus pocket with clear PVC and a scissor pocket. Besides I have been doing demos of hand embroidery so the wool felt squares I have chosen to make up the pages are doing double duty. When it’s finished it will become a reasonable example of lots of different hand stitches. 

Side note – I’m getting to play with my teflon foot 😃

Apologies For The Radio Silence

I’ve been a bad blogger for the last 2 months (when I went off on a rant about craft fairs). It’s not an excuse but I have been busy…

My 2 Festival of Quilts entries for this year have consumed my time and as usual I have nothing to publicly show for it. Also I may actually be mad for attempting 2 – one for Quilt Creations and 1 for… well actually I can’t quite figure out what class this one will end up in. It’s either meant to be “art quilt” or “contemporary”. Mostly it’s a Claire special and has no real category. But it is flat so that’s a new one.

However something else has consumed my time – 

I took the plunge and have started Little Hippo Sews properly. The local agricultural show had space for more stands and I got in. It’s all very official now – I have insurance and everything. 

So I am available to teach sewing machine basics, hand embroidery and quilting. 

Hopefully you’ll see me out and about. I’m thinking of doing ‘make and takes’ next time.

Craft Fair Haul

For all I moaned yesterday I did do some spending today. Some things I actually needed for once… The fabric will probably be used for my ticket stub quilt. I wanted something that would offer colour without drowning the embroidery that will create most of the surface decoration and texture. The awesome grey Wonderfil threads are hopefully to inspire me to do more with the photos that I’m so scared to touch. Originally I dreamed of only using the “off black” and “off white” threads I have but maybe I need more subtle options. Ooh shiny beads for my luneville work, hopefully coming to a familiar Etsy shop near you soon. A Twizzler for tightening the frame and stand wing nuts. Total bargain at only £2! And finally a book from the Needlework Archive stand, they probably have the original edition, published in 1870 and not this (almost as old as me) 1986 reprint. I never knew Mrs Beeton created a needlework book. Although I’ve heard she wasn’t really the author of her famous cook book. It is rather awesome. Perhaps it will teach me some more about the old Victorian pockets…

And what have you achieved this week?

Um… nothing. Well the start and end of the month is a bit frantic usually in the old 9-5 but this time it had some additional complications. It was all early starts, working flat out and my easily confuddled brain was all taxed out in the evening. 

However it is Craft Fair season again!! The quilting/sewing/papercraft… oh let’s just call it the SEC show is on this weekend. It’s a confused show in my eyes. A couple of years ago there were massive complaints about how cramped it was when they had 2 halls to use. Back then it was merely sewing and hobbycrafts. That was fixed, mostly, over the next few shows. Then it evolved and developed a quilting side. Again that seemed ok but last year a rival craft fair staging company brought an English show (or a Scottish cousin) to Edinburgh and turn out for the SEC appeared low. In fact I wasn’t the only one to think that. 

However we are in 2017 now… Some of the traders have disappeared this year including “the book guy” (I’ve never remembered his company name and I regret this now). And it’s all in one massive hall, I believe that the SEC in its great rebrand from SECC (well it will save on the signwriting at least) has melded a couple of the halls together permanently. That massive hall is only about halfway full, there’s a good 20 meters of hall at the back that’s not in use. Worse of all it is becoming very, very confused as a show. It has 3 names – the sewing one, the quilting one and hobbycrafts. Can’t it just have one? Sewing, with all the amazing facets it contains – dressmaking, embroidery, toy/bag making and even quilting – can all live under one loving roof. The related textile arts – knitting, crochet, felting, tatting, lace making and the rest could be happy here too…. Oh wait we have a name for all of these – TEXTILE ARTS!! And they grow in popularity with every breath I take.

I’m not grumpy. The traders go where their time and efforts will make the most money and if that’s not the SEC this time then maybe we will see them at Christmas. (Now that’s a show with 2 names but it has 2 distinct areas to cover and it does.) BUT things could be done differently to help folk out. I might travel to Edinburgh but lots won’t. Things could be simplified and given one name. The stalls could be mixed up a little. I realised that maybe this is actually favoured by the traders and the organisations that attend these shows but having all the guilds and groups “hang out” in one area sometimes makes the footfall uneven. They might get more uptake if they were split up and mixed with the traders (of their supplies) to increase the footfall across the entire hall. (Side note – the only show that gets away with an artist’s area is Festival of Quilts but that is specialist so those going will know and interact with these celebrities of the craft world [or gawp at them from a safe distance because I’m too chicken to talk to my idols])

Sigh. That was a long one. Before anyone takes a crack at me this is just my observations of 7 years of SEC, SECC, Festival of Quilts, Knitting and Stitching show attendance. I often go on more than one day so get a chance to see the busy and the quiet. I also love them all in their own ways and this was the first of the shows I ever went to so I’m extra sad to see it get into trouble. The potential is huge and I don’t want it disappear altogether someday.