Something Special

red-scribble-heartIt’s really difficult to know how to help someone and show them just how much you care. I often spend hours wondering how do something nice, but not embarrassingly too much. It is the same problem with my older daughter. I can buy her endless gorgeous things from Mint Velvet, but whilst I know she appreciates them,  I also thought that having a little bit of GillyMac with her when she is working so hard for exams in Leeds,  will be just like a little bit of home in her bag.

It was a proper #Saturdaynightcraftalong here this evening. My Mum came over and was knitting minatures (sparkly) shrugs for two of the rag dolls the Friday night girls have made and I was making a PC sleeve for Annie (secretly, whilst she was out). We enjoyed watching ‘What We Did On Our Holiday’ (David Tennant & Rosamund Pike – utterly brilliant).  I haven’t done that in ages with Mum. In years gone by she has taught me to knit and I am sure there were times when I was knitting with her and my grandmother.

Anyhow, the lovely evening produced the PC sleeve and most of a Rag Doll shrug.

Annie’s face when she saw the PC sleeve made me sure that it was a good idea. I think in the future … I will try and make more presents for people. I just now need to discover how to make a little more time in the day ! img_7020

 

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 

Tasha’s Reversible Tote Bag

As a teen project for the Summer holidays, Gill and I found a great pattern for a reversible tote bag. It looked great and simple to make … so my first project at GillyMac Designs was to make it up.

The Finished Bag

Method

  • I first had to cut out my pattern by Novita Estiti from ‘VeryPurplePerson.com’, I did this on two contrasting coloured fabrics.
  • Then I put the right sides together and sewed along the bottom edges, leaving the straps open.
  • Then I sewed along the straps (arms holes and openings) and stop stitching after 20cm, I clipped all the round edges, then I pressed everything out and pulled it around the right way round through the straps.
  • I then sewed the straps of each set together, I made sure that I sewed each strap to the strap beside it, NOT the strap in front.

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  • I pressed the seams open and pressed the seams into each other.
  • I then top stitched the handles and around the arm holes, I didn’t use a contrasting thread but that could be possible.

IMG_4852What it could be used for

This bag could be used for shopping as it is easy to carry in a hand bag and store away. The bag is strong so could hold food items or any bits and bobs you buy in the shops or on the high-street. It is a fashionable item that can hold any dance kit or sportswear and it easy to hold on your shoulder. It could be used as a school bag as it is strong and if it gets dirty it is easy to wash both sides thoroughly. It can go with anything as there are two sides so could go with any clothes that you are wearing and if you don’t think one side goes with your outfit… try the other side!

It is fun and easy to make and the product is very useful.

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

Liberate Me …

Earlier on this year the GillyMac Thursday evening patchwork and quilting group started on a project of Liberated Quilting, inspired by book of that title by Gwen Marsden. Our quilts started along the same lines as Gwen’s, but soon, as with all our Thursday evening projects, everyone made their own adaptations and the quilts all ended up in different places.

GillyMac's Liberated Quilt

GillyMac’s Liberated Quilt

Liberated quilting has few rules. You don’t need to quilt a 1\4” seam, you don’t have the iron your seams one way or the other, you don’t need to measure your pieces (in fact I would say you shouldn’t measure, but that would sound like a rule) and you don’t need to restricted yourself to any design and there are no patterns. The one thing that I did suggest to the group was that after 4 or 5 pieces they should iron their growing artwork. With pieces, and small ones, at that being joined every which way it would be easy to get rucks and ripples caught up in the piece. Regular ironing allow you to check for this and adjust any mistakes, it smooths out your piece so you are unlikely to make such a mistake with the subsequent pieces and it is a natural pause and review point for you to consider where to go next with your piecing.

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Pink Wonky Log Cabin

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Green Geese Block

The use of colour was vital for me in constructing my own piece. I chose fabrics with small to medium modern prints in vibrant colours. I grouped colours together and started off by creating wonky log cabin blocks in blue, or greens or yellows or reds or oranges. Whilst making the log cabins I alternated between strong colours and weaker colours in the colourway I was using. A great tip to check on how you are doing on this front it to take pictures of your cabin and turn them into black and white, In this way you will get a much better picture of the difference in strength of adjoining pieces. Having made a number of log cabins, I stacked them and cut them, rotating the pieces to make new blocks with a variety of colours, adding yet another dimension to my work.

 

Another three techniques we investigated were “Free Range Geese”, “Liberated Stripping” and “One-of-A-Kind Stars” … I made up these names! The geese were made by stitching and flipping pieces diagonally across a (goose) rectangle.

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Wonky Star

The stars were a development of this. The points of the stars were made in the same way, except the diagonal pieces are over-lapped, and background square are added to the corners and for the centre of the star. The Wonky Stars would make great centres for a Medallion styled Liberated Quilt. Finally, Liberated Stripping is really simple and very effective. Strips of fabric are sewn together ( foundation piece style) one onto the other onto the other and then shapes are cut from the resulting pieces and sewn together.

After constructing the centre of the quilt we needed to make the borders. I made a number of sample borders for the class to work on and follow. For my own quilt I was inspired by Karen Lewis’s Blueberry Park fabric to use her black and white (ish) fabrics to create a striking frame for my quilt. I’m still working on this. If I am truthful, I have slowed not only because of my own workload at the moment, but also because I had no idea how I was going to quilt this piece.

Often I find if I get ‘stuck’ with a piece, the solution comes eventually. In this case, my thoughts are forming around a very simple quilting format. Using irregular shapes and straight lines to build up a liberated quilting framework to complement the piecing! … I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.

For now I’ll end with the work of the Thursday evening group. Everyone of this group is a star and their work shines just as much as they do !

Liberated Quilting

Sue’s Liberated Quilt

 

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Jean’s Liberated Quilt

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.

Creating an Amazing Space – Part 2

Oh my goodness.. we are about done ! Yesterday was the last big push. The GillyMac room upstairs is tidied, labelled, dusted and vacuumed. Downstairs we are leaner, with less clutter but still with some of the books I love on view for inspiration! 

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In the next couple of days, the hooks will go up for the inter-changeable design walls. Then …  I think we are done…. in the sense that we are in good shape to maintain order, see what we have and enjoy and use what we have. Lastly we are putting up curtain tracks on top of the shelves so that lightweight calico curtains can be hung from them to protect the fabric from direct sunlight and to keep the dust down!

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The Super Sale was a great idea and it will be something I will do on a more regular basis. It created a healthy turnover in stock, it shared the love and it made some cash to plough back into the business. I still have sale fabrics … so don’t be shy to ask… I think another sale will happen at the same time next year and I am sure that year on year the Super Sale will grow.

IMG_1895Measuring the pieces (as I discussed in ‘Part 1’) was a master stroke – Thanks to all who helped! At last I can see what I have and most importantly I know how much is there. I have 3 or 4 boxes of ‘bits’ left over. These range from ‘smaller than fat quarter’ to ‘less than a metre’ and I am going to turn these pieces into 3.5″ and 5″ squares as well as 2.5″ strips which can be used in creative classes and for the Young Quilters and after school classes. Then once this is done, my lovely pal Lindsey will have the remaining small bits for her amazing 1″ hexi project…

The outcome of all this sorting and tidying is a huge number of project ideas. There is so much scope to use what is here for many exciting things. Added to these ideas are the new techniques I have been researching over the summer. I want to dye my own fabric with my senior girls and I also want to add fabric stamping into some of the applique pieces we are about to undertake this term ! I have a folder with all my ideas in it .. my magic folder !

I love been more organised, but it has made me remember how amazing lucky I am to be married to a man who has allowed me to build GillyMac and who supports all that I do every day.

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Why Don’t You …

I have no idea why it seems to be such a secret that to work with kids is just the best job (though teaching my two Thursday groups is a close run wonderful thing)!!  This Summer, I’ve had the pleasure to teach just over 60 children, either at home, on Young Quilters session, at the Festival of Quilts or a Claires Court Holiday Club. I am amazed it is so many!

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We have made mini quilts, appliqued pictures, zipped pencil cases, frogs and owls, as well as tote bags and tie dye’d T-shirts. There are lots of pictures on my ‘Young Quilters’ page at the website.  Yesterday I looked at the cost of each activity per child. Ignoring my time, the cost was less than £4.60 per child per activity for each of the activities, except for tie dying where we created fabric bags as well as dyed T-shirts all in one session, but even that was only £7.  So the cost is not much really at all, yet everybody seemed to have a brilliant time.

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It’s not just the cost though, it’s opening their little minds to what they can really do. What they achieve can be all their own work and can be beautiful, brilliant and useful. It doesn’t need to be another thing that has to be sneaked into the bin, but it can be something you, they, friends or family can use or keep forever.

By mid-Summer I had created the classes for my after school groups. I am still reeling from their success at the Festival of Quilts and wanted to build on that. This term we are making bed runners (like table runners, but for the end of a bed with pockets for teddies and books), and we will be doing a variety of applique pictures. Later on in the term we will be doing some microwave dying and fabric stamping across to create our own fabric designs to use. I am also planning activities for 1/2 term at Claires Court Holiday club …so keep an eye out for that.

image1 (9)I am hoping that by the end of the year I will have a “Why Don’t You” page on my website. For those of us of a certain age there used to be TV programme in during the school holidays called “Why Don’t You” that encouraged children to get off the sofa (it would be ‘away from the computer’ now) and do something more interesting instead… I thought I could share my low cost makes and ideas to try and inspire even more creativity ! So watch this space !!

 

Having a Go !

For the second year running, the same group of girls from GillyMac Designs have won a prize at the Festival of Quilts. This year, Wizarding Magic, a piece created by my Senior Sewing Group came runner up in the Secondary Schools category. The GillyMac Senior Sewing group is an after school group that contains four 14 year old girls, who have been sewing together for a few years now. The journey involved in putting a piece together for the Festival of Quilts (FoQ) or any event is not hard, and I thought you may like to know how the girls came to put together Wizarding Magic as well as the two other quilts we submitted this year to the Festival.IMG_1467

Often when entering a competition, there will be a theme to work around. Last year for the childrens categories at the FoQ it was ‘In My Garden’ and my Senior Sewing Group created a large pixilated image of a Sunflower. This year the theme was ‘ Patchwork Magic’ and I had three young sewing groups all very eager to take part – and win ! Coming up with one great idea is hard, two is really tough and three is a hideously hard job. However this can be made so much easier by asking friends for their ideas, googling images of the topic and finally simply closing your eyes and allowing your mind, uninterrupted to come up with some images. I find the girls have fairly firm ideas of what they want to do and normally all that is needed is to add some help with the techniques to be used to make it happen !

IMG_0341For Wizarding Magic, we started off with a drawing of a Wizard.  Anything ‘Magic’ made us immediately think about Harry Potter and Wizards. So we had our central character right there ! We knew that all wizards had owls (of course) and we wanted to incorporate the iconic black cat. Our wizard, like all wizards, didn’t walk about in daytime, so he would be a wizard at night, holding an owl, with a moon in the background. Simple ! In reality it is never that simple. We had loads of ideas some were great, many were rubbish and there was lots of discussion before we started as to the things we thought we’d like to do.

20150512_161527078_iOSFor my Junior Sewing Bee, we had seen designs by a lady in Devon, Jacqui Bignall of FlapDoodle Designs, who drew amazing fairies and so we asked her to draw one for us and she accepted the challenge. For the GillyMac Saturday Sewing group, we wanted to stick with a Wizard, but focus on his hat (like a ‘Sorting Hat’, for those of you who are Harry Potter fans) and so we looked at many images of hats before we came back to one of the first we had seen and settled on that.

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Finding the right design is all part of the fun. It doesn’t happen quickly, but for me it is as enjoyable as the sewing !

SubstandardFullSizeRender (1)When we started turning the design into a sewn piece we knew from last years experience that the judges like there to be many elements to the design. The categories we would be judged on would be

  1. Design Construction (theme, originality, composition, colour and choice and suitability of materials)
  2. Workmanship (handling of materials and finishing)
  3. Quilting Surface Decoration (appropriate use of embellishment and technique)

For one evening a week for 6 weeks the girls divided up the tasks and built their designs. Joe Bennison of Jellies Quilts, supported the teams with showing them how to use a long arm quilt machine and with that help and with lots of tie dying, beading and embellishing we were finished and the quilts were sent off to the event organisers with their labels and tags on.IMG_1288

Once the quilts are returned after the event you will get your feedback whether or not you have won a prize or not. My experience is that the judging is really fair and the points they make are great tips for areas to work on and progress your sewing as an individual or team. Even though not everybody won, all the girls worked really hard and their quilts will go on to be shown around Berkshire over the coming year.

So next year why not have a go either as a group or as an individual ? The competition forms are already available for Malvern and Sandown next Spring and Sumer via the Grosvenor Shows website.  If you are a Young Quilter based locally you can always contact me for help with any elements of your work and more importantly I would just love to see what you are up to!

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Contact Gill Towell via : mail@gillymacdesigns.com