Category Archives: traditional quilts

Using Pinterest 


My Throw in Progress (with basting stitches!)

If you were to take a look at my Pinterest boards (via the sidebar on my blog or here). You might be surprised at what you see, especially if you’ve known me for a while. I don’t think they’re much like what I’ve been making.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, so I’ll call this an aim for 2018 and beyond. I’m going to try to bring my sewing and crafting in line with the dreaming I’m recording on Pinterest.  So what about this throw?

I’m a member of a quilt group called Welsh Heritage Quilters and every two years we hold an exhibition at the Minerva Arts Centre in Llanidloes. You can show any quilted item you’ve finished since the last exhibition or which is in progress, but there are also categories to encourage us to push ourselves.  I decided to make something for the “Welsh” category. I’ve been learning a lot about traditional Welsh quilts at the Quilt Association and wanted to have a go.

My starting point

Frame quilts are very traditional so that was what I decided to make.  I bought many of the fabrics to make a throw as a wedding gift, but lost my nerve and left them languishing untouched in the drawer. The colours seemed just right for a traditional quilt.


Close up of Quilting in Progress

Welsh quilting patterns are very distinctive and I set about trying to copy some, but then…

I decided not to try to make a clone but something based on all the boro and kantha quilts I’ve Pinned.  I’m using variegated Sulky thread to stitch what are traditional Welsh patterns, but in a way that seems to me more like boro or kantha. Don’t know if I’ve succeeded but it’s very satisfying. I’m really enjoying the quilting process.


The back in progress

I’m not too concerned about my stitches as I’m hoping the patterns, when finished, will draw the eye away from individual stitches.

I’ve had difficulties. The only marker I could see was yellow chalk (seen on the photos) and that rubbed off, so I marked, worked outlines and marked again. It’s not fully marked yet and none of the hearts or circles are yet fully quilted – some infill is called for.

The wadding is cotton flannel that’s been sitting in my sewing cupboard for years on end. It’s not easy to hand quilt but I’m getting used to it. Many traditional Welsh quilts would have contained carded wool and were quilted very closely to keep the wadding in place during laundry.

So, I’ve started using my Pins to influence my quilts, but I’ve got clothes boards you really wouldn’t believe if you saw them and a shoe board brimming with shoe making ideas. But those are for other times, other posts.

Do you use Pinterest? How do you use it? I’d love to know so do join the conversation. And if you put a link to your boards in the comments I’ll take a look.

Enjoy your week.

Norma x








Filed under patchwork, Pinterest, quilts, sewalongs, textiles, traditional quilts

Blackberry Dye Update

This is the dress after rinsing. A sort of dusky pink.

This is the old pillowcase I used to strain the dye. Tie dye look and some lovely purple. I’ll use this in a quilt, I think.

The blackberries were wild. I picked the on the ground ones that no one ever wants. It’s a good year for blackberries so I will pick some more for dyeing as well as those I need for jam & wine.

The dress will go away when dry so as to allow the dye to take well.

I’ve been dyeing lots this summer and I’ve sewn and even done some secret knitting. I’ll be showing some of this stuff soon. If I haven’t visited your blog recently I’ll be around soon. Sorry to have been so out of touch.

Have fun!

Norma x


Filed under #1year1outfit, Clothes, dresses, dyeing, fashion, slow dyeing, slow fashion

Enjoying the Slowness

My Tumbling Blocks quilt is growing: albeit very slowly. I’m really not far from finishing the top.

The bright white tunic – previously a sheet – is sitting in a pot of daffodil heads. They were flowers that needed deadheading so I popped them in the dye pot before going to the compost heap. I’m relying on solar power to dye the top. I heated it up when the solar panels were working and the pot is now sitting in the greenhouse. It will probably be there for 10-14 days. It’s not bright white anymore and I’m hoping for a pale yellow as a base colour. We’ll see!

The silk skirt is progressing well. I took it out of the dark and dyed it with onion skins today. I’ll rinse it once it’s dried – in some dyeing traditions this is done to help the colour to take better. I can see it from the window and it’s looking a lovely dark orange now. If I like the colour when it’s rinsed I’ll put it away in the dark for a couple of weeks before wearing it.

And then there’s my dress. Remember this top?

It’s Merchant & Mills Curlew pattern and I’m going to make the dress version using some of the big roll of undyed Irish linen I bought for OneYearOneOutfit. I’ve traced the pattern and I’ve been debating how to make it – machine or hand? I bought some undyed looking cotton to use the machine but now I’m not so sure. I enjoyed last year’s slow progress and wear the top a lot. The hand stitching is holding up fine. And if I do it at speed I’ll probably then make another dress – but I don’t need one.

What do you think?

I will be dyeing it once it’s made – usual slow methods.

Well, that’s the update. Hope there was something there to interest you.

Have a good week.

Norma x


Filed under Clothes, dyeing, patchwork, quilts, sewing, slow dyeing, solar dyeing, textiles, traditional quilts

Wearing the Landscape


OneYearOneOutfit – the final outfit reveal.

Top: Lots more detail here.


Before dyeing

Made of Irish linen, garment dyed by me with docks, onion skins and a pattern made by hammering English Marigolds into the fabric. I kept the top in the dark after each dyeing session to help set the dye.

Bias cut, sewn by hand. Pattern: Merchant & Mills Curlew.

Skirt: Lots more detail here.

Welsh wool, spun in Wales and woven at the National Wool Museum. No dyes, these are natural sheep colours.

Pattern: 1934 from Home Journal magazine. Extra pleat inserted by me.

Scarf: All welsh wool. The cream and the grey are natural sheep colours. The golds are onion dyed by me.

The scarf replaces the waistcoat I knitted which I hate: it makes me look much bigger than I like. It will make a gorgeous cushion cover and I’ll work on that over the next few months.

Boots: Made by Celtic & Co in Cornwall from British sheepskins which are mainly a waste product these days. They were a Christmas present from my husband.

Is it wearable? Yes! I have worn the skirt and top together and felt happy with it. I put these boots with it to make it a British Isles outfit and prefer my black leather boots to make an outfit.

The top is a great match with my black trousers so will get worn that way too. I love the skirt and it goes well with a couple of other tops (and the black leather boots rather than these). The scarf is lovely and warm so is sure to get lots of wear over the winter.

What did I learn about British Isles textile products? There are no natural fibre threads spun in the British Isles so far as I can tell. All my threads had to be pulled from the fabrics so handsewing was the only option.

Plenty of handmade wooden buttons are available and they are so beautiful.


There is lots of Welsh knitting wool available – hand and machine spun. I’ve loved using it and will definitely use it again. It looks and feels beautiful. My knitting skills do not do it justice (and that’s not false modesty).

How will I take it forward?

Making clothes from completely local products is time consuming and can be quite expensive.

A lot of work goes into bringing up sheep, spinning yarn, weaving yarn, dyeing , knitting and handsewing. If all my clothes had to be made this way, I would have very few. It makes me understand why Elizabethans left each decent garment to a favoured person in their will. They were valuable and valued.

My life won’t allow me to have every item made this way but I plan to use elements in the future.

Lots of garden and other natural dyeing planned. I loved doing it. I’m growing woad to try to get local blue dye. The plant was eaten by caterpillars so I’ll have to try again.

I will visit WonderWool Wales again and buy more Welsh wool fabric. For a jacket, perhaps.

I am a terrible knitter but definitely improving because of all the practice I got doing this project. I’d like to use some of the cream or grey wool to make a sweater for next winter.  Or the one after!

I bought a 10 metre roll of undyed linen so I think another Curlew top or dress but dyed a different colour. Made by machine next time with purchased threads.

I really like Merchant & Mills patterns so I’ll probably make more of theirs in 2017. (I made an “unblogged” summer top from one of their patterns too).

Why wearing the landscape? That’s how I felt about #oneyearoneoutfit when I was working on my clothes. I wanted to take it further and see what else I could do with natural colours and fibres. It occurred to me that maybe wearing nature’s current products rather than those that have been buried under the earth for centuries might be a more sympathetic look for me.

I’d love to hear your comments on that.

Happy Stitching!

Norma x







Filed under #1year1outfit, 1930s, Clothes, dressmaking, dyeing, fashion, Knitting, sewalongs, sewing, textiles

Victorian Style Petticoat for a 1930s Skirt

It proved impossible to find a secondhand silk dress to line this oneyearoneoutfit 1930s skirt. It’s made of Welsh wool tweed and needs something underneath to complete it. If I could’ve sourced some very lightweight undyed Irish linen it would have made a great lining. It was not to be.

Instead, I decided I’d have to make a petticoat to work with it. I was inspired by the lovely cotton lace I was given and some white cotton lawn from my stash made it possible.

The top of the petticoat uses one width of the 115cm wide fabric and the bottom frill is 150cm wide. It was the only way to get a long swishy petticoat out of 1.5m of fabric.

Unlike the Victorian petticoat it resembles, it has elastic at the waist. It has French seams, a rolled hem and I’ve satin stitched the lace to the petticoat. All techniques used in the 1930s but I did them all by machine.

I couldn’t resist some handsewing so there’s white cross stitching in cotton perle on the gathered seam.

I’ve used cotton threads throughout so that I can dye the petticoat in the future if I want to. Interestingly, the very fine cotton thread I used for all the sewing behaved well even when stitching the elastic in. It needed to be upright on the sewing machine spindle because it was straight wound onto the bobbin.

It doesn’t count towards oneyearoneoutfit because it isn’t local fabric or thread and I’ve no idea where the elastic comes from, but it does make the skirt wearable. A wool skirt with no lining teamed with a too short petticoat would never get worn, but this combination made me feel fabulous when I wore it. And that’s what we’re all looking for from our clothes, isn’t it?

Thanks for dropping by

Norma x





Filed under #1year1outfit, 1930s, Clothes, dressmaking, fashion, history, sewing, stashbusting, textiles

One Year One Outfit Top


The OneYearOneOutfit Challenge: To make an outfit using local natural fibres, threads and dyes.

Fabric : Natural Irish Linen

Thread: Taken from the linen and run through beeswax. I also dyed a piece of fabric with the top so that I have matching thread for repairs & alterations. There are no commercially made natural fibre threads which fit the criteria of OneYearOneOutfit.

Dye: Garment dyed five times. Solar dyed three times with dock leaves, mark making with English marigolds and overdyed (in a pot on the stove) with onion skins. I think it looks much better in real life than in the photos.

Pattern: Merchant & Mills Curlew. Bias cut and sewn entirely by hand.

Will it go with the skirt? I’m not sure. I have noticed that dyes taken from the local landscape do sort of go together. I’ve got a theory that if you wear stuff from your own landscape it should always go together – as nature’s colours do. We’ll see. In any case, I think it goes well with my black trousers so it will get worn.

Do I like it? Yes. I think it will get worn a lot. I might need to shorten the sleeves but I’m going to wear it a few times to be sure. I plan to make the pattern again sometime.

Thanks for stopping by,

Norma x





Filed under #1year1outfit, Clothes, dressmaking, dyeing, fashion, solar dyeing, textiles

A glimpse of my knitting 

I’m not a very good knitter, but living in sheep country I felt I had to do some for oneyearoneoutfit .

So this is it – not yet finished. It’s a sleeveless cardigan made in Welsh wool from Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. The design is my own and that’s why it isn’t finished as it needs tweaking.

The gold colours came from onion skins – onions grow well here,  so they fit very well with this local clothes experiment .

I have finished the linen top for oneyearoneoutfit, so I’ll be posting that shortly.

And for those of you waiting for the velvet cloak: it’s finished and I am getting my act together and a post will come soon.

Thanks for dropping by .

Norma x


Filed under #1year1outfit, Clothes, textiles

More solar dyeing

I’ve had two attempts at solar dyeing my oneyearone outfit Irish linen top. It is now vaguely yellow but not yet the colour I hoped for. I am thinking of using berries for the next stage – you can see reddish patches on the wet fabric and I think I would like more of those.

Dock leaves stink when they’re soaking so they spent time in the greenhouse rather than the house. Oddly though, the smell went after I left the top out overnight. I am leaving it untouched until I find the right dye. According to this book:

Eco Colour by India Flint

the longer you leave the dye before rinsing the better. And I think the book is wonderful, so I’m following the instructions as carefully as possible.

Much smellier is this:

This is a charity shop blouse (frills now cut off) that I’ve solar dyed in onion skins. It was left for 9 days in the greenhouse and came out that lovely orangey gold. You can see it’s covered in flies & I’m really not suprised. I left it out for 24 hours but have now washed it in soap flakes. It’s clean, pale cream and smelly – worse than the decaying badger I ran past today. Not onion but just horrible. Will it go? I don’t know. It’s still pegged to the covered washing line – I’m trying to keep it in the shade to avoid more fading. It’s a pretty colour now but not wearable because of the smell.

So, no especially successful projects so far but I’ll keep trying & let you know what happens.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x






Filed under #1year1outfit, Clothes, dyeing, fashion, India Flint, solar dyeing, textiles

#OneYearOneOutfit Progress


OneYearOneOutfit is really underway now I’ve sewn the Merchant & Mills top. It’s a bit dull at the moment because it’s waiting to go in the dye pot for solar dyeing. The mordant was a carton of sour milk and the first dye will be dock leaves unless I spot something better in the meantime.


The facts :

Fabric : undyed medium-weight Irish linen bought from a re-enactment trader on Ebay.
Thread: linen from the above fabric run through beeswax (bought from a Farmers’ Market). Obviously, it wasn’t possible to use thread like this in a sewing machine.
Seams : backstiched and then hand overcast to finish.
Hems: hemstitched by hand.
Pattern : Merchant & Mills long sleeved Curlew top from their Workbook. Lining omitted.
Next step: the dye pot!

It took me about 8 hours excluding cutting out – I should think 2 hours would be plenty if I were using a sewing machine. I really like the pattern by the way, and will make it up some other way when I get time.

Why am I doing all this?

I’m trying to make an outfit from my own “fibreshed”, which I believe to mean the British Isles.

So far, I’ve managed to get natural Irish linen fabric and very local undyed Welsh woollen fabric but I haven’t been able to buy threads.

For the linen fabric it seemed best to take short lengths from the fabric itself and wax it for smoothness and strength.

For the wool fabric, my generous friend has very kindly offered to spin me some local wool thread – I’ve had a go with her sample and it works well.

Dyes have to be natural and growing in the fibreshed for this project so I’ve opted for hedgerows, fields and gardens around my home village in mid Wales. I’ll probably keep overdyeing the linen top until I’ve got the colours I like.

If you’re interested in the project, take a look at the principles and the participants here.

Enjoy your week.

Norma x


Filed under #1year1outfit, Clothes, dressmaking, fashion, sewing, textiles

No pattern tops for starters

Following on from my posting here, I thought I’d show my no pattern tops. They are very good tee shirt replacements for everyday life. This one used 1.5 metres of 1.2m wide fabric. As I’m trying not to save scraps, I’ll make the remainder into one of my fabric pots and some bias binding – both to sell over the summer if I’m lucky.

Me Made May Day 7

A younger me wearing one made from a charity shopped Liberty print skirt


And the whole collection…

They are all different, but all made by tucking and manipulating fabric to fit my shape. Buttons are my favourite fastenings so they always feature in these tops and dresses.

Odd? Yes, I suppose so, but they can be quite pretty, they are cool to wear and they don’t use much fabric. The dress was made from only 1 metre of 1.5m wide fabric.

Meantime on the 1930s front, I have a blouse I made a while ago which I think will make a good starting point for this:


Thank you to all those of you who offered sugestions as to where I could find a pattern – I think going through all your suggestions helped me to realise that I actually had something that I could use. I’ll show you soon.

EmilyAnn has some interesting pointers to share on her 1930s dress toile. I am learning a lot from her methods.

And for the #oneyearoneoutfit project, I’ve started sewing the bias Irish linen top. I’ve unpicked some of the threads from the fabric to use as sewing thread as I’ve been unable to source any suitable linen thread. To make it usable I stick to short lengths (about 12 inches)  and pull it through a beeswax block. It seems strong enough. Obviously, handsewing is the only way to do it.

Once I’ve made the top I plan to dye it with plants from my garden (or maybe my neighbours’ fields).

Thanks for dropping by.

Norma x


Filed under #1year1outfit, 1930s sewalong, Clothes, dresses, dressmaking, sewing, textiles