Quilt design inspiration in London Museums

One final post from our travels to the UK this summer, if you don’t mind. It’s so fun to find beautiful quilt and design inspiration where every you go, so I thought I’d share a few last pictures of some pretty design I came across on our travels. Above is the Museum of Natural History (literally across the street from where the Fat Quarterly Retreat was held. Such a gorgeous building and the carved detail on the gates out front was gorgeous with representations of different wildlife. I wish I’d snapped pictures of more of them.

One of my favorite things about London is the museums – in part because they’re free (although a small donation is appreciated.) We visited a bunch of them while we were there. Though not specifically quilt themed displays, there was still great inspiration to be found. This is the Tate Gallery.
When I visited, there was a special exhibit of  beautiful “fabric paintings” by an artist named Andrea Buttner that reminded me of modern quilt designs. There was also a special Folk Art exhibit going on, but I didn’t have the time to go through (or, sadly, the desire to pay the extra fee at the time.)
This tile floor at the Tate was another fun quilt design inspiration.
The British Museum is full of pieces from antiquity, but the modern sky light over the main hall atrium is one of my favorite features!
Strolling through the carvings from ancient Assyria (Iraq) was this beautiful carved “quilt”. (Not really, but it sure looks like one!)
Here’s a close up. I’m sorry it’s hard to see – the lighting made it difficult to get a really good picture, but hopefully you can still see some of the gorgeous carved detail. Making a “stone quilt” sure means it’s got a longer chance of survival.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is a museum dedicated to the “decorative arts” including textiles and clothing and interior decor, jewelry, sculpture, etc. It is huge and such a fantastic place. One of my favorite exhibits there is always the one displaying clothing over the last 600 or so years. It’s fantastic! I don’t know why I don’t have any photos from that – maybe they weren’t allowed. I can’t remember.
Gorgeous tile designs from the period furniture and decor exhibits. I love getting quilt inspiration from tile patterns. Plus I’m always a sucker for blue and white together.
There was a gorgeous collection of original designs by William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts movement in the 19th century. He was a builder, furniture designer, artist – pretty much could do it all. I’m totally a William Morris fan and it was fun to see the detail and how much more vibrant are the original pieces.
This piece is called strawberry thief. Morris’s prints also inspired some the first Liberty of London textiles. This one is still in print today!
I also snapped this picture of the tile floor at the V&S. I think I need to make a quilt like this.
More design inspiration around every corner. These massive doors were on a building along Embankment.
One highlight for me was visiting the Jane Austen museum in Chawton, in the home she lived in towards then end of her life and while her books were being published. This was my first ever time visiting Chawton.
This is an old quilt on one of the beds in the house. Red and white never goes out of style!
But the really cool part was to see the quilt that Jane Austen herself had made! I’d remembered hearing about a quilt made by Jane, but hadn’t realized it was at this site! I’m sorry for the lousy picture. The lighting was not great and there was a glass wall around the bed. (Which was probably a good safety precaution against those of us who might fondle the quilt itself, or just walk off with it all together. You know how nutty those quilt-people can be!)
The fabrics and colors were beautifully preserved. I loved the dot fabric used for the sashing especially. I would love to know though, how much the colors have faded and changed over time.
Look at those hundreds of little baby triangles. I’m assuming this was English paper-pieced, but don’t know. You can read more about the Jane Austen quilt here and here. As if I didn’t love Jane enough – then to be reminded that she was a quilter too!


One final quilt from our journeys was at the Harry Potter Studio tour outside London. (If you’re a Potter fan, it was absolutely worth the effort and the price to go. So well done.) This pic is from the set of Gryffindor tower and there is Ron Weasley’s bed with this patchwork quilt of knit squares, obviously made by his mum. As a good mum would.

Fabric + Shopping in London

I’ve already shared a couple of posts of fabulous fabric shopping locations in London – the Cloth House and Liberty of London. By no means am I the expert on all the great sewing shops in London, but I there were a few other shops and spots that I hit during my short stay that I thought inspiring and share-worthy.
Another great resource for Liberty of London fabrics is Shaukat in South Kensignton. (Thanks to all those who recommended it!) This was an easy walk from the Fat Quarterly retreat through a smart (posh) neighborhood in London.
The huge selection of Liberty fabrics was in the basement. The presentation is not the same as at Liberty itself, but the selection was just as good and the prices slightly less. Plus they would cut as small as a half metre (compared to Liberty which would only cut metre lengths and higher.)
The other great benefit there was they had a big stack of remnants and scraps. Liberty lawns are on the pricey side – but can go such a long way, so scraps are very useful. I had fun digging through the scrap pile with Cristina, Gunilla and Helene, who were also at the FQ Retreat, and found some gems.
I also splurged on 2 half metres of two of my all-time favorite Liberty prints. But so many good ones got left behind… Now to figure out what I’m going to do with these two.
Another favorite classic English stop was the Cath Kidston shops. I’ve been a total sucker for Cath’s style for a while now and those shops are so full of my kind of color and inspiration.

 I love the haberdashery dept at Cath’s. Lots of pretty fabrics and notions to inspire.


I did a little splurge there as well, buying a fat quarter bundle and a small piece of yardage. And maybe a new bag that I love. (Thank goodness it was Sale season in London!)
The pictures from this Cath (as well as the shop with crocheted sewing machine at the top) were taken on Marleybone High Street. Though I’d heard of it before, this was my first time visiting this part of London. And it was lovely! I little less hustle and bustle than other shopping areas of London with cute, quaint little boutique shops and restaurants.

Lots of adorable children’s shops in that area. Maybe it’s where the next royal baby’s new wardrobe will come from. I’m kicking myself though because I missed The Button Queen and VV Rouleaux on nearby Marleybone Lane.

We passed the Orla Kiely shop near Covent Garden on our walk to the British Museum one day. My family was not in the mood to stop so I let them keep going. (This is the reason this shopping post is not super comprehensive.) I ran in just long enough to take a picture and feel inspired. It was still worth it  as Orla is one of my favorites. 

And finally, while in London you have to hit the big department stores like Harrods, Fortnum and Masons, Harvey Nichols, etc. I’m not much of a shopper for luxury goods, but they’re still such a spectacle. We dragged our kids through the Harrods Food Halls. I’d forgotten just how gorgeous all the details were – even the tile ceilings and food displays were inspiring. We were tempted by the fancy chocolates and macaroons but settled for Cadburys from the corner shop near our flat for a fraction of the price. And it still felt plenty luxurious to us. :)

This list is by no means the be all and end all of sewing-inspired shopping in London, but it’s a start. Feel free to add more in the comments so we can make this post a more comprehensive resource. And so I have a list of other places to be sure not to miss if (fingers crossed = when!) I get a chance to go back.

Post Edit: I didn’t make it outside central London, but here is a great round-up of quilt shops in the greater London area from the London Modern Quilt Guild.

Liberty of London + Liberty fabric giveaway

One of the places I was most excited to visit during my trip to London is the iconic Liberty of London store. It’s literally one-of-a-kind. The Liberty store is located on Regent Street in the heart of one of the trendiest and poshest shopping districts in London. (Carnaby street is close by.) 
I first discovered Liberty when I lived in London as a college student 20+ years ago, but back then we’d go check out the fashion and the couture wedding gowns (which they don’t carry any more). Little did I know then, going back one day it would be all about fabric. lol
 
Liberty made it’s name originally as a business importing items from the Orient. It is still a department store stocked with a carefully curated collection of a variety of beautiful items from fashion, to gifts, stationary, dishware, accessories, and jewelry.

Not only is it full of pretty stuff to see and buy, but the building itself is worth a look. The iconic Tudor-Revival store was built in the 1920’s using materials from two old ships. The interior has so much character.

The details of the interior including the carved wood and the leaded glass definitely add to the ambiance. I loved the beautiful memorial to the staff members who were killed in “The Great War” (World War 1).

Liberty design and style is still famous – especially in the textile design realm and now probably most famous for their Tana Lawns fabrics which they have been producing for over 135 years. Inspired originally by the colorful silks and prints imported from the far East, Liberty teamed up with nineteenth century designers like William Morris to create in-house collections to sell in their departments stores.

The most classic Liberty designs are delicate florals in a variety of styles and colors. The reason they’re so iconic is they’re classic – they never go out of style. Liberty Tana Lawns are made from ultra-soft cotton, creating fabric that is almost silk-like. The cotton is ultra light-weight, making it lovely for garment sewing, but still works for quilting, with super-soft effect.
The Liberty of London store has a huge habedashery section with bolts of Tana Lawns as well as pre-made bundles of smaller pieces like fat quarters as well as pre-cut squares and hexagons which are a nice option because the minimum cut off the bolt at Liberty itself is 1 metre (meter). I did end up buying this little patchwork pear pincushion as my souvenir. It’s made from some of my favorite Liberty prints, light-weight to carry home, and something I know I could never recreate so perfectly. I love seeing it on my sewing room shelf.

Because of the quality of the fabric, the price of Tana Lawns is not for the faint of heart. They are definitely pricier than regular quilting cottons. Scrappy, pre-cut bundles are a great way to go. I’ve been collection bits and pieces for a few months now and putting them to use on this paper-piecing project.

Follow Amy Smart’s board Liberty of London on Pinterest.
The prints play so nicely together that scrappy projects look really great. Well coordinated, but not matchy-matchy, which I love. I’ve started a pin-board of Liberty Inspiration for ideas to play with my Liberty scraps. Liberty also has a Liberty Craft Blog with lots of great projects as well!
If you are looking to start collecting a little bit of Liberty, let me recommend one of my sponsors, DuckaDilly fabrics. They carry a gorgeous selection of Liberty of London yardage.
And if you’re looking to get a variety of Liberty pieces at once, check out their bundles and stash packs. There’s a little of something in different shapes, sizes, and colorways to give you lots of options.
And in extra fun news, DuckaDilly is giving away a $100 gift certificate to one of you! (This includes refunding the winner that amount on any purchase made between now and the giveaway ending.) To enter take a quick peak at DuckaDilly and leave a comment telling me something you especially love in their shop. Giveaway open until Wednesday, September 17 at midnight MST. GIVEAWAY CLOSED

WINNER: Lisa Marie said…

Liberty of London Tana Lawn: Felix and Isabelle (G) is gorgeous!
DuckaDilly is also offering a 10% discount with the code LIBERTY at checkout (exceptions on subscriptions, sale items, and gift cards) through Sunday, September 14. You can keep up to date on the latest from DuckaDilly by following them on Facebook and Instagram.

The Cloth House, London

When I travel – especially to big cities, I’m always on the lookout for unique sewing or fabric related shops (like Purl Soho in New York.) I was SO glad when a few of the ladies at the Fat Quarterly Retreat recommended The Cloth House because it fit the bill perfectly.
There are two Cloth House shops on Berwick street (at numbers 47 and 98). Because of time I only visited 47, before it closed. I’m wishing I could have seen number 98 as well. (No. 47 had more of the cottons, linens, and trims, where as I think No. 98 specializes more in the in garment fabrics.) They are located only a short walk east of Liberty of London.
The Cloth House is FULL of treasures. Not only are there a wide variety and number of bolts of fabrics, but there are also beautiful displays of vintage notions, trims, spools, ribbons, etc. or haberdashery as they say in the UK. (A much more fun word than notions, if you ask me.) I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. The displays were inspiring and tasteful.

Vintage linen hemp and pattern wallpaper 
  Those jars!

I was good and only bought a couple of 1/4 metres of cotton. I wanted to get something unique that would be difficult for me to buy at home so I chose a printed cotton and a hand-stamped cotton, both from India.

Highly recommend a visit to the Cloth House if you’re in London. The staff was helpful, but not pestering. They were perfectly happy to let me browse and very gracious when I asked if I could take photos.

Oh to be in England…

To put it mildly, this summer may have been our best ever. For some reasons you’d expect and others surprisingly unexpected. As I’ve already mentioned (maybe too many times) for years we’ve dreamed of taking our children to England and this is the year we made it happen. 
Now that we are home and the kids have started school again, I’m finally going through my pictures (there are a lot) and thought I’d share a few of the good ones. So if you’re only here for the fabric and quilts, hang tight, there are a few of those still in this post. Hopefully the rest of the subject matter is pretty enough to sit through. And if not, we’ll get back to the fabric stuff next time.
We started our journey in the Northwest in the Lake District. The Lakes are a very popular tourist destination in the UK – and with good reason. They’re pretty scenic (understatement). The photo at the beginning of the post is taken from the top of Orrest Head near Lake Windermere.
This is beautiful Avenham park in Preston, England. My husband and I each lived in the northwest of England for a period of time in our early 20’s as Mormon missionaries, where we overlapped briefly. In fact the fist time we ever met was in Avenham Park. It was one brief and totally awkward conversation but it was enough that when we met again 18 months later, when I was back in college, that we had a good jumping off point to continue the conversation. And it gives us the chance to say we met in a pretty awesome location. We showed our kids, who I think were mostly impressed, if not a little wary of the mushiness factor.
Our goal for this experience was to introduce our children to people and places that we love, and to spend time with them, but also to get our kids outside their comfort zone. Obviously England is not a drastically different culture from America, but there are subtle differences living in Europe vs the US. 
We also wanted them to see the history in a country with a much older history than our own. I’ve lived and traveled in Europe on multiple occasions and I’m pretty good and going hard as a tourist, seeing a lot each day. With our kids with us, however, I definitely had to re-calibrate my expectations. There were some days when “seeing another old building” was just not what they wanted to do. 
Liverpool
For most of our time in England, we rented a little cottage outside of Manchester and took day trips from there. I highly recommend a little cottage or flat (apartment) when traveling with kids. There are a wide variety of vacation rentals to be found via TripAdvisor, Bookings.com, etc. We have four kids so it was definitely less expensive than multiple hotel rooms, not to mention having a kitchen meant we could cook our own food and make eating much less expensive. Plus it added to the real living in another country experience. We could walk to the shop (aka grocery store), my boys loved playing “footy” (soccer) with lads at the nearby park, and it just gave them more stability and routine on a long trip away from home.
It also meant my husband had a place he could work from. That’s the other thing that made this experience a possibility for us – we are lucky in that my husband (and I) work for ourselves and with a computer with internet access we could work from anywhere. (Minus the sewing machine part.)
Having lived in England a couple of times, we spent some of our time visiting places I’d been before like York – which I’d visited as a college student 21 years ago. I remembered really liking it and going back it exceeded my memories of how much I loved it.
I also loved visiting new-to-me-places. One of which was Lyme Park a “great house” just outside of Manchester. If you’re a Jane Austen and/or Colin Firth fan you might recognize it as Pemberley from the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice. Someone recommended this to me right before we left and it turned out to be one of my favorite days of our trip. Such a beautiful spot. We could have spent hours more exploring the extensive grounds if we’d had the time.  
We could not believe what spectacular weather we had while we were there. Our kids got sick of my husband and I saying “And the weather was SO beautiful” every day, but he and I knew that it easily could have rained every day. That said, rain is not all bad. I think if I lived in England, my garden would be so much more lovely. Check out those hydrangeas. They were huge!
Another favorite aspect of the trip for me was visiting towns where my English ancestors came from. I LOVE family history and learning more about where I came from – each of these places were little villages where my grandparents’ parents and grandparents came from. Where they’d been born, christened and buried. (The marker in front of the headstone above marks my ancestor John Udall. Good thing too, since the headstone is completely unreadable now.) I have lots of British heritage which is I think another reason I feel like part of me belongs there.
I think some of my favorite (or favourite) parts of the trip were things that we hadn’t planned that seemed to magically fall into our path. For example, we drove up through Yorkshire to Haworth one day for an outing. By sheer coincidence we drove along the route that had been used for the opening stages of the Tour de France only a few days earlier. There was bunting lining the route along country and village roads for miles.

Another one of those things that I couldn’t have planned was getting to visit a meeting of the Leeds Modern Quilt Guild. Awesome Justine noticed via Instgram that I was not far away and invited me to come. The day could not have worked out better as we were going to be driving through Leeds on the way to York that same day.

So my nice family dropped me off and kept themselves entertained while I got to visit with these lovely ladies. Such a good time! I loved seeing what everyone was working on and I even got introduced to the famous (or infamous?) Greggs pasties thanks to Katy.
Speaking of Katy, I also got to see Issue One of her new baby, the magazine Quilt Now and it’s fantastic! This is published in the UK so there are no direct US subscriptions as of right now, but you can order Issue 1 (while supplies last) or subscribe through Pink Castle Fabrics.
Another extra special place we were able to visit is the Isle of Man. I lived here 19 summers ago (also while serving my Mormon mission) for 6 months. This was my first visit back and it was WONDERFUL! It’s such a beautiful place.
These are the ruins of Peel Castle (about 1500 years old) outside the town of Peel.

Here are some views of Cregneash Village. So many shades of green. (The Isle of Man sits in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland, so it’s not too surprising that it’s so green.) And I love the pop of color from those red post boxes and phone booths. I may be slightly obsessed with them.

When we finished our time in the North, we headed south for a few days before we finished in London. (I took the train to London by myself for the Fat Quarterly Retreat the weekend before and returned to Manchester before driving south as a family.)
Oh London. It’s the best! Here is Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace as seen from the bridge in St. James park. 
I lived in London as a University student for a semester abroad which was one of the best times of my life. I still love to visit London and just wander through the streets. Happy, happy memories. And I’m happy to say that London obliged and provided lots of new memories too. I loved taking my kids on the Tube and the big red buses, walking through the parks, climbing the Lions at Trafalgar square, and touring the Tower of London. They even obliged me in visiting my old digs at Palace Court, not far from Kensington Palace where Will and Kate and baby George live.
I have to say that I was really sad when it was time to come home. Not that I didn’t miss people at home, but I really loved our time in England. I would move there – or at least return for another extended stay – in a heart-beat. I am so THANKFUL that we had this opportunity. It has been interesting to see the different ways we have each processed it and been affected by it. I do think it broadened my children’s perspective in very healthy ways. 
The thing that has surprised me is how much I have been affected by the experience. As much as I loved the experience of just being in England itself, I am also realizing that I loved the simplicity of our lives while we were there. We brought very little with us and it was so liberating to travel light and not have to keep track of stuff. We lived in much smaller accommodations than our house at home. And we got to spend a lot of time together with out having to worry about getting different kids to different lessons or teams or schools all on a different schedule. 
The whole experience has made me realize how much I want to simplify our lives and to get rid of clutter – both physical and emotional clutter. Since coming home I’ve been cleaning out our house like crazy and took a big pile to the Good Will last Saturday. I’m also starting to say No to more and to better differentiate between things I need to do and things that are nice to do, but really aren’t really that important. I wouldn’t have predicted this effect on me and I’m really grateful for it.
I have a few more quilt-inspired pictures to share from our trip, but I’ll save those for other posts down the road. Thank you so much to all of you for sharing such generous and genuine excitement and kind words that we could live this dream. (I’m a big believer in abundance mentality. Expect good things to happen to you and be happy for the good things that happen to others.) I truly hope you hold onto your own dreams and do what you can to make them happen. The outcome may be better – and even more slightly unexpected – than you think!

Union Jack attack – Pattern and Panels

This fall I was asked to make and teach this bag for a class at Fabric Fest and have long promised a pattern. Finally it is ready. You can find it in my Pattern Shop or Etsy shop. I have a couple of kits available in the above fabrics – contact me directly at amy{at}diaryofaquilter{.}com if you’re interested in one. I had wanted to make a small quilt using the block in different colors, but that hasn’t happened and I’m not sure when it will, so I decided not to delay the pattern any longer since there are some who have requested it for Christmas. 
The block instructions are included in the bag pattern and can be used however you like. The block finishes at 11″ x 15″. I made a quilt with Union Jacks using a different pattern, but ended up modifying it significantly because there was a lot of fabric waste using that method. For a long time I’ve wanted to create my own pattern for the Union Jack with a more efficient method and less fabric waste. It is finally here.
If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you know I kind of have a thing for Union Jacks. They are a huge trend right now – I like to think that maybe I had something to do with it, but the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics last year probably contributed as well. We even saw French kids in Paris last year with Union Jacks on their shirts, and you know that’s saying something.

So you know I was excited to see these great Union Jack panels from Riley Blake. They’ve just come out this month and should be hitting stores any time. The small Jacks measure 9″ x 11″ with a panel of 8 different flags. I have a baby quilt and tutorial in the works with these panels.

The large flags are 36″ x 42″. I can’t wait to think of something to do with this big boy. 
I’m having fun coming up with ideas for these panels. You can find assorted panels at the Fat Quarter Shop, Fort Worth Fabric Studio, and Hawthorne Threads.
In other upcoming Union Jack fun, check out these prints from London Calling by Dear Stella coming out next year. I might need these too.