Here’s a Little Baby…

here's a little baby, one..

here’s a little baby, one..



This month is a busy birthday month for our family, and I know of several friends’ grandchildren and children being born. Commemorating the birth of a baby is the first opportunity in a life-long tradition of present-giving, of precious keepsakes and celebrations to mark the momentous events. Welcome to the world Molly

Reminiscing about the baby gifts for our daughter’s birth 16 years ago in April, l remembered a favourite baby  book.  I think that every new baby needs to be honoured with a copy ‘PEEPO’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.  It’s a delightful and wonderfully illustrated book, which you will read over and over again with your baby as she/he grows up. You can pour over the lovely pictures for hours. image Looking again at these lovely images  I was inspired  to create little pillows for newborn boys and girls, with pretty embroideries depicting charming old fashioned prams, made out of pink or blue complimenting/contrasting fabrics. These would make perfect gifts for brand-new babies.  Breaking away from my usual hand-embroideries,  and because I am currently addicted to it, I have made these using free-hand machine embroidery on to appliqué fabric.  I have also created customised versions with an embroidered name or date of birth stitched on. Baby pillow for Sophie Envisaging the pillow hanging on the door or chest of drawers in the nursery, I have filled the pillows with fire-safe,  allergen-free and washable toy stuffing. These can be scaled up in size to become removable cushion covers and I am also working on a range of designs.

Here's a Little Baby - one, two, three..

Here’s a Little Baby – one, two, three..


Embroidered Pictures

Red rose appliqué and embroidered with love

Red rose appliqué and embroidered with love

I just love daisies!

I just love daisies! The detail of the yellow centre, the white petals and the tiny tinges of pink at the tips add to the gentle charm of daisies.

A little Gallery of my embroideries, all originally designed by me and sewn by hand to give a fresh, naive, charming quality.  I use all types of linen as the base for the embroideries. The finer modern linens give a professional style finish to the piece, while the vintage linens and grain cloths are softer and give the project a gentler, sort of faded grandeur. Sometimes I add hand or machine appliqué and mix these with my favourite faded florals from Cabbages & Roses, Caroline Zoob, Kate Forman, as well as from my stash of vintage fabrics, which I have collected over the years.

The bird below is a naive bird shape sewn in blues and greys onto slubby vintage linen

The embroidery bird

The embroidery bird

Beach huts by the sea

Beach huts by the sea

Fabric appliqué onto natural fine linen. Stitching, pictures and ‘writing’ embroidered by hand.  The sun is made with a chain stitch.

Sea and sun and sand, castles and buckets and spades

Sea and sun and sand, castles and buckets and spades

Embroidered boat on vintage linen

Embroidered boat on vintage linen

Blossoms float ...

Blossoms float

I made this embroidery into a cushion filled with feathers.  The blossoms are sewn as French and colonial knots. The trunk and branches are either stem stitch or back stitch and I ‘write’ the words freehand in a simple back stitch

Lavender in a pot embroidery sewn into a heart and filled with fragrant lavender to match the picture

Lavender in a pot embroidery sewn into a heart and filled with fragrant lavender to match the picture

I usually use two strands of embroidery silk and keep the stitching simple. I used a fern stitch and back stitch

Scandinavian style heart in red and blue on vintage linen

Scandinavian style heart in red and blue on vintage linen

Patchwork Quilts and Metaphors

Molly’s dresses Quilt – Pink does rather predominate!

I have several patchwork quilts on the go; one is for my daughter which is being made from her baby dresses. I have been making this for a very long time! 

applique dragonfly

Boats and Fishes

I have joked that ‘at this rate it will only be finished by the time she is 16’!  Worryingly she is now 15 and I don’t know where the years have gone.  If I think about it, I do; they have been wonderful!

Another quilt project that I am working on is completely hand-sewn.  I am making it from all the lovely scrap pieces of material, that are too small to do anything clever with, but too gorgeous or precious to throw away. 

the pleasure of hand-sewing in a world that’s moving too fast.

They are pentagon-shaped and instead of using paper or cardboard, I have ironed on a backing of fusible web.  The fabric is folded around it, just as in the traditional way, but the backing will not be removed after the pieces are stitched together.  I think it will give a robustness to it – quite important as some of the fabrics are vintage and have been well-loved. It is lovely to pick up and put down and you don’t even have to get out the sewing machine!   Just sew a patch here and there; on a train journey, whilst waiting for dance or singing classes to finish (especially in the winter months – I think I had the idea that if I sewed enough it would keep my knees warm at the same time!)  Nostalgically I am reminded of Nana in Ballet Shoes or White Boots, but not as frumpy of course!

Vintage Laura Ashley – all vibrant colours in pinks and purples in brushed cotton

I was reminiscing about the Laura Ashley bags of scraps in my first blog – the patch-working here was made from some bought in the late 70s or early 1980s I think! Do you recognise the fabric?  It must have been from an autumn/winter range as the fabric is brushed cotton.  I’m not sure that this project will ever become more than a reminder of an era! 

Stunning Cabbages and Roses fabrics

some of my stash of vintage linens and cottons – what better inspiration

Yet another quilt in progress is still in my head.  I was lucky enough to buy a pattern book of Cabbages and Roses fabrics from a shop that was closing down, and I thought they would look lovely in big square patches.  I was thinking of mixing these beautiful florals with lots of texture from velvets, wools and silky satins to create something wonderful to look at and to touch. 

Hanging on a bedroom screen with little pockets for special treasures

With all the bought and hand-made quilts I have, our beds resemble the Princess and the Pea!  My husband is very long-suffering!

princess crown on treasure pocket

The really beautiful thing about patchwork is that not all of the fabrics have to be the most beautiful, but when they are woven together they form a special, unique combination; a beauty of their own  – A metaphor for life really!  And what goes in really does come out!

Whilst I am intrigued and drawn to patchwork and quilting, it is not my only love. It is SO time-consuming and sometimes the regimentation of it drives me mad.  I have to escape to the next idea!

the embroidery bird!

Which is why a lot of beautiful and fun items have been made through the years; some are bespoke items made for friends and family; gifts to mark the birth of a new baby, a wedding or just to feature in a friend’s Summer House have been amongst the projects.  I will be ‘posting’ some of these soon………..

posted with love

A Creative Journey

I began to do patchwork in the 70’s when you could buy a bag of fabric scraps from Laura Ashley, which were the off-cuts from their dresses.  In those days I did patchwork by hand on cut-out shapes of paper and fabric.  It was also a very flamboyant and hippy time and you could walk through the North Lanes in Brighton and discover bags of leather off-cuts.  We used to glue squares of suede and leather together in all sorts of colours and make handbags!  After College, my very first flatmate Ros and I both loved to sew.  Ros was more proficient and would complete more of her projects.  She once made a brief-case size patchwork bag for me to take to work on the tube each day to the City!  We measured it so that the FT newspaper could fit – the two things seem quite incongruous now, but I loved it. 

My mother sewed beautifully; she made all our dresses as children and later on ball gowns and bridesmaid dresses!  I had not shone at needlework at school!  We all made the embroidered cross-stitch hankie cases as gifts for our mothers and I learned to knit by making a wool puppet; I was more inclined to chat and giggle and used to stretch this puppet each week in the lesson, so that the lack of progress was not so noticeable!  My grandmother taught me to crochet as my mother was left-handed and therefore, using different hands, we were sewing, knitting, crocheting in different directions. (I still sew both left and right!).

At secondary school we were finally allowed to use the sewing machines; my progress was slow.  It took me months to complete a sleeve-less, collarless dress.  It was not impressive!  Later, having sewn and embroidered many projects, I wondered why this was the case and I think it’s because you had to follow the rules – you could not jump ahead or cut corners or work it out for yourself.  You had to pin the pattern, cut it out, pin it, tack it, remove the pins and only then could you stitch it together. So frustrating – I was impatient to see the end results of my ideas!  My great friend Tina has since shown me more effective sewing techniques so that I can bring my ideas to fruition and I have poured over books for hours and hours working out how items are put together.

 Many years ago my mother decided to renew her interest in patchwork and quilting and joined an evening class.  She had the very good fortune to attend a class run by our neighbour Mandy Shaw, who has worked out all the short cuts and her enthusiasm and creations are so inspirational! Fired up by this my mother went on to make quilts and hand-made mohair teddies (more of this later!) and re-ignited my interest. 

Teddies at Le Roure – Marmaduke and George
Two of the Mohair Bears my mother made from Mandy’s pattern

Mandy has since gone on to create the successful company Dandelion Designs.  She has published several wonderful books and project packs which people flock to buy online and at shops and fairs such as the Spring Quilt Festival, Ardingly.  (I have to go there each year for supplies and inspiration!)   Her success has even brought Kirstie on Channel 4 to learn from her!

The textile artist whom I most admire and with whom I most empathise is Caroline Zoob.  I also love her hand-painted pottery and china, which is now hard to come by but so pretty.  When I first discovered her book Childhood Treasures: Handmade Gifts for Babies and Children I couldn’t believe it, I knew exactly what she meant.  I too had watched the A-level needlework students with envy as they created beautiful cut-thread and white-work embroideries.  I wanted to sew as if writing and drawing freehand and that became my style.     

Home-made Cushion with
Cabbages and Roses blue fabric

My inspirations come from a variety of styles.  I love French Country, mixed with English Country Home, historic samplers, Scandinavian cool linens, American Pioneer and New England blues and reds.  I adore the delicate muted shades of fabrics from Cabbages and Roses and the slightly more formal faded linens from Kate Forman.   I love Greengate.  And of course Cath Kidston’s faded paisleys, florals and jaunty spots still have a place amongst the enduring favourites.

Gorgeous fabric lavender hearts

Keep an eye out for more of my own projects and ideas in my next post!

A little bit of love…

I made this for a friend

Welcome to my new blog.  Follow my ideas and creations in future posts and on Twitter @Embroidery_Bird!

This is for lovers of all-things fabric and for those like me who are always coming up with new ideas and also seeking inspiration and beautiful things to look at and to make. 

Add to this a never ending pleasure in finding trimmings of ribbons, lace, crochet edgings, buttons, beads etc etc planning the perfect placing of each of them. I love making lovely things with fabrics; i can’t resist the feel of linen in particular and especially love vintage items or those evocative of a time and style. I love french linen embroidered sheets and towels and hungarian grain sacks; items which have been personalised and lovingly made and adorned by hand. I like to embroider linen and use trimmings from beautiful old fabrics and patch them together. I love to go searching for these and of course to find a bargain.

Having accumulated all these lovely notions, a few of the thousands of ideas in my head actually become a reality and I sew embroidered pictures, cushions and quilts.  Some of these commemorate a birth or a new home so there is an endless way in which they can be put together to suit the recipient.  I use the fabrics that I love, which are often vintage, made of natural fibres of linen and cotton, with printed and woven designs of faded flowers, jolly florals to jaunty stripes and spots.  These go on their own or mixed together, depending on the project.  Whatever the mix and special project they are all created with a bit of love.  I don’t sew if the mood is wrong, as these special gifts and creations demand my best feelings and attention