Festival of Quilts and Stash – I’m a hoarder am I?

It’s early August, which means that the Annual Festival of Quilts is now a matter of weeks away. I’ve taken my eye off the big “shows” the last couple of years – I already have more stash than I know what to do with, and have become very disappointed with what’s been on offer.

A few weeks ago I attended the “Sewing for Pleasure” and “Hobbycrafts” event up at the NEC, and only went because I had nothing better to do. There was a time when this show took up two of the larger halls of the NEC, and had little unused space around the edges. This year, it was in one hall, and there was a lot of noticeable empty space. However, the aisles remained narrow, resulting in blockages where people stopped to look or chatter, and the units looked to be the same size as normal.  One of the good things about crafting is that it’s very inclusive for people on reduced mobility – the downside is that there are plenty of people with crutches, walking sticks and mobility chairs. which are not a problem *in themselves* but are a problem when the aisles are barely big enough to let two pass each other, never mind allowing people to stop and look at stands. I don’t understand why, when there is plenty of free space, that aisles can’t be a few inches wider? Continue reading


Book Review: Sonoma Rose (Elm Creek Quilts #19) by Jennifer Chiaverini

As the nation grapples with the strictures of Prohibition, Rosa Diaz Barclay lives on a Southern California rye farm with her volatile husband, John, who has lately found another source of income far outside the Federal purview.
Mother to eight children, Rosa mourns the loss of four who succumbed to the mysterious wasting disease currently afflicting young Ana and Miguel. Two daughters born of another father are in perfect health. When an act of violence shatters Rosa’s resolve to maintain her increasingly dangerous existence, she flees with the children and her precious heirloom quilts to the mesa where she last saw her beloved mother alive

Picked up at the 2016 Bookcrossing Unconvention held in Birmingham. This is the 19th in the Elm Creek Quilts series, and this time is set in the US during prohibition.

This is told from the standpoint of Rosa, and shifts across several timeframes – her early life as she grew up with her childhood friend Lars, marrying John who claimed to love her (even though he suspected the first daughter was not his), and having 8 children between the two men. Finally John’s abusive behaviour is too much for her to bear, and she escapes, taking a load of money from the barn (gained as a result of John’s bootlegging).

Lars, Rosa and the remaining children escape to the city, where they find out why some of the children get sick and the others (it’s coelic disease). They then set up new lives – under new names – and start again as if Lars and Rosa had married in the first place. The threat to their new life comes from the prohibition agents who come around the vineyards they now work in.

Whilst this is classed as an “Elm Creek Quilt” book, but there’s very little mention of the “previous heirloom quilts” mentioned in the blurb, and only the occasional reference to Rosa making her own quilts. There’s no tie into Elm Creek at all so I struggled to work out the connection.  Rosa has a certain amount of strength, as shown in standing up to the Prohibition agent, but whilst John was being violent towards her, she still went ahead and got pregnant by Lars (so she has no issue with committing adultery).

The potential threat from John is removed quite quickly, and Lars seems to have no problems with disappearing “off grid” from his family, never to be heard from again – the similarity in his looks to the Prohibition agent only proves to be useful in the end, and there seems to be no issue in deceiving people.

Overall, this wasn’t my favourite in the series and it left me feeling rather disappointed.

Summertime Blog and Reader Challenge – Non Book related hobbies

Summertime Blog and Reader challenge - week 4

It’s week four of Parajunkee’s Summertime Blog & Reader Challenge, where the week is about moving further away from books and blogging about the things we enjoy, other than reading. It’s Post 15 and we are asked to talk about our non-book related hobbies

My other main hobby is crafts, and I currently have a couple on the go.

I’ve had a stash of fabric that’s been following me around for years.  The bulk of it was a set of quilting fabric that I picked up from a company called Laura Ashley, in what must have been the early 1990s.  I think it’s followed me through 2 countries and 3 houses, so a few months ago I bit the bullet and started doing what’s known as “paper piecing”. At the moment there are several large squares of fabric (made up of 16 smaller squares) sitting on my dining room table. Sooner or later I will have to join them together and make something (though right now not sure what, beyond some kind of quilt top).

There is also other piles of fabric stash lying around the place (one of the reasons I decided I had to do something with the stuff I had). Some of this is specific from patchwork/quilting companies, and some have just been from shirts etc that have died a death and are otherwise no use to anyone.  Again, as with many crafters, I am a bit of a hoarder here and simply need to get around to using it.

I’m a sucker for making large pieces in cross-stitch, many of which have been given to family or are currently hanging on my walls.  I have one Work In Progress that I started at least a year ago, am about 2/3rds of the way through and need to finish it, if only to stop it looking at me and guilt tripping me for ignoring it!

Once in a while I get a fad for knitting – something that proved useful when I was sick and couldnt see well enough to read or do sewing. At least I didnt need to see to feel my way round a set of knitting needles!

What about you? What are your non-reading hobbies?

What do you mean I have too much stash?!

i might win the lottery


Despite promising myself I wouldn’t go to the 2015 Festival Of Quilts, I have found that I have “magically” booked the Friday off work that corresponds to the Festival of Quilts. Surprise! I still don’t have a ticket, mind, but there are generally tickets available on the door on the day. Previous years I also went to some of the social events, and I’ve noticed that this year, the Gala Dinner is back on after a few years absence – however it’s black tie and I would be coming straight from work, so no chance to glam up before hand!

I already have loads of stash lying around the house, including plenty of fabric, but have yet to make something with any of it. Each year I promise myself that I will and the next year comes along and yet……Does anyone else find this?

I’m finding myself getting better at resisting actually spending the big money on stuff, often by not taking the cash with me in the first place. I think this year I will concentrate on some of the books, as well as the “necessities” (needles, threads etc) that will always be used no matter what craft you’re doing.

In previous years I’ve taken photos of the winners of the competitions, and I’ve kept them after deleting my other blog. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do with them, and don’t think I will take photos this year.

I would love to hear about any Quilt Festivals that you’ve been to.  Is there a regular one near you? What was the last one you went to?

Book Review: Alice’s Tulips by Sandra Dallas


Alice Bullock is a young newlywed whose husband, Charlie, has just joined the Union Army, leaving her on his Iowa farm with only his formidable mother for company. Alice writes lively letters to her sister filled with accounts of local quilting bees, the rigors of farm life, and the customs of small-town America. But no town is too small for intrigue and treachery, and when Alice finds herself accused of murder, she discovers her own hidden strengths. Rich in details of quilting, Civil War-era America, and the realities of a woman’s life in the nineteenth century, Alice’s Tulips is Sandra Dallas at her best.

It took me a while to get into the writing style – it is where one sister (Alice) writes letters to her sister Lizzie. Some of it is a little forced (reminding her sister as to how many brothers they’ve got for instance) in order to get the back story in, but it’s minor and soon got over.

The letters are one sided (you never get to read the replies) and tells of two years on a farm with Alice, her mother in law and various waifs and strays, all whilst Charlie is off fighting in the Civil war.

Alice tries to bear the unwanted attention of a local womaniser, but never contemplated that she would be accused when he turned up dead on their land. There are also diversion in some of the other women in the town (you hear little of the men).

Once I got past the slightly unusual format, I enjoyed reading this book! Although reading through this review again, I can remember little of the story itself now, and it has blended with several other civil war quilting books that I’ve read in the last few years, so dont know if that reflects well on this book or not


Book Review: The Aloha Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

alohaquiltThe Aloha Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

Another season of Elm Creek Quilt Camp has come to a close, and Bonnie Markham faces a bleak and lonely winter ahead, with her quilt shop out of business and her divorce looming. A welcome escape comes when Claire, a beloved college friend, unexpectedly invites her to Maui to help launch an exciting new business: a quilter’s retreat set at a bed and breakfast amid the vibrant colours and balmy breezes of the Hawaiian Islands. Soon Bonnie finds herself looking out on sparkling waters and banyan trees, planning quilting courses, and learning the history and intricacies of Hawaiian quilting, all the while helping Claire run the inn.

As Bonnie’s adventure unfolds, it quickly becomes clear that Claire’s new business isn’t the only excitement in store for her. Her cheating, soon-to-be ex-husband decides he wants her stake in Elm Creek Quilts, which threatens not only her financial well-being but her dearest friendships as well. Luckily she has the artistic challenge of creating her own unique Hawaiian quilt pattern to distract her and new friends like Hinano Paoa, owner of the N’Mele Hawai Music Shop, who introduces Bonnie to the fascinating traditions of Hawaiian culture and reminds her that love can be found when and where you least expect it

This is practically a stand alone novel in the series, and concentrates on Bonnie, one of the original members of Elm Creek, travelling to Hawaii to help her friend Claire establish a new quilting retreat, whilst putting some distance between herself and her husband during a rather acrimonious divorce.

The new setting allows Chiaverini to introduce her readers to a new way of quilting – this is number 16 in the series after all! – as well as giving a potted history of Hawaiian history (no idea if it’s right or wrong but fair dues to her for even trying!).   The Elm Creek Quilters are barely seen until the end, for various reasons, so is pretty much a standalone book.

The divorce has been a long time coming, so it’s a relief that it’s finally over, even if it’s a small part of the back story.

Claire is the opposite of Bonnie – the former ignoring the things she sees as negative, where as Bonnie takes everything the wrong way and thinks it’s for the worst.

I have to admit I did skim the occasional small set of pages in this book – there were parts that it did seem to be more of what us Brits call “a party political broadcast on behalf of…” so it ran very close to being a lecture on how bad things had gone for the Hawaiians over the years.

So in summary: a fairly standalone book in the series, that gives the reader a decent overview of Hawaiian quilting, and finishes one of the long running threads in the series, but little more

Book Review: The Last Runaway by Tracey Chevalier

lastrunawayThe Last Runaway by Tracey Chevalier

The stunning new novel from the bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring. Honor Bright is a sheltered Quaker who has rarely ventured out of 1850s Dorset when she impulsively emigrates to America. Opposed to the slavery that defines and divides the country, she finds her principles tested to the limit when a runaway slave appears at the farm of her new family. In this tough, unsentimental place, where whisky bottles sit alongside quilts, Honor befriends two spirited women who will teach her how to turn ideas into actions

You cant fault Chevalier for her research whilst writing a book – this has Quakers 1850s America, the Slave trade, bounty hunters, and quilting all wrapped into a plausable story about an Englishwoman coming to America and being tested over principals, marriage, slavery and what humans are prepared to do to each other.

Chevalier manages to find different ways in progressing the story without bogging herself or the reader in too much detail (changing between a straight narriative and Honor’s side of the letters to the people back home, and back), allowing for whole periods to pass in a few pages.

Not sure the relationship between Honor and Jack quite works – she’s a Quaker who gets married after a quicky fumble in the corn field. She didnt seem to expect anything different, despite having no passion for Jack (unlike what she feels for the dangerous Bounty hunter Donovan) and seems to feel no regret for doing the dirty without even a hint of a promise.

There’s enough detail in the Quilting to keep casual quilters happy, though I’m sure that the more adept quilters would like to try and find fault.  Some reviewers complain about there not being more information about the Underground Railroad, and whilst there wasnt much, I think it was appropriate – after all this is a foreigner who stumbles across the situation rather than being sought out to be actively involved – and I know that for safety’s sake most people would only know about the stop either side of them, in order to reduce others being caught out.  These were difficult times for all, so that most people (especially the free black people) weren’t suddenly going to share their secrets with women who they barely knew.