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Patchwork Play

One thing I’ve been dying to try for ages (since I was about 10 years old actually!!) is patchwork and quilting. When I saw that York School of Sewing were running a beginners class I couldn’t wait to sign up. A whole 2 days of sewing and learning new techniques. In this class you learn the basics of both patchwork and quilting and make your work into a lovely squishy cushion.

We were asked to provide our own fat quarters, and I had a piece of fabric which I’d bought 6 years ago with the intention of making a blind for my son for his bedroom. He was then and is now a very keen golfer and this fabric is bright green with black ‘golfing’ figures on it and I thought it would look great in his room. However, the blind never got made, and the son is grown up now! The plan is that he will be moving out of his current bedroom in 2017 (just as soon as we get our loft converted and a new bedroom for us!!) so he won’t be needing that blind after-all. I decided I would use the fabric to make a cushion for him to celebrate his move when it finally happens.

York School of Sewing has a fantastic range of fabrics to choose from so I was able to choose some co-ordinating fabrics suitable for a young mans bedroom. We started off by experimenting with combining our fabrics to decide what balance we liked best, and then got down to cutting out all the pieces we needed for our patchwork.

We were a small group of only 5 ladies so it was sociable enough but it also meant that lovely Nadine was able to give us all plenty of attention too.

Once we had cut out the front of the cushion we started stitching it all together. It was good to have Nadine to tell us what was the right technique and equipment (such as the proper foot on the sewing machine) to use, and I think that is why my patch-working turned out to be far more accurate than it would have been had I tried to learn at home by myself.

We were going to be using the quilt as you go technique to make the back, and the layout was slightly different to the front with lots of very small squares to cut out for the centre.

On day 2 we learnt the quilt as you go technique for the back of the cushion, and then we were shown how to put the wadding and backing together with the front panel. We practiced different quilting techniques, before finishing off the panel for the front of the cushion. Once again having expert advice and the correct equipment were invaluable.



I loved being able to try free-motion quilting and was extremely proud of myself  for putting my sons’ name on his cushion!!

I was very pleased too when I showed it to him and heard the words

“cool…thank you”

He certainly looks happy with it 🙂

Nadine said it would be ok if I shared some of her photos from the workshop to show the variety of designs produced.

Take a look at the website to see the range of classes on offer at York School of Sewing. They also have regular days when you can go along and buy from the vast range of fabrics and accessories available.

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My New Dress

In my last blog I showed you a dress I had recently made for myself as part of my quest to explore and learn more about textiles. This was a big achievement for me, not having done any dressmaking for many years and I had been a little worried that it wouldn’t turn out very well! It was also the end (or maybe the beginning of the end!) of a long journey for the piece of fabric that I used as it had certainly been around for quite a while waiting for something to happen to it. It had been with me for a good 13 years and, having moved house with us 10 years ago, spent quite some time languishing in our loft. Before I acquired it, it was in the possession of my lovely friend Becky, who passed it on to me because she was emigrating to Australia. Here are the 2 of us when she came to visit me in Tadcaster a few years ago…


She has kindly written a little description of how it came to be with her.

I believe it was given to my mum in the 1980’s by an Australian girl who was travelling & stayed with Mum. She had been to Saudi Arabia working as a nurse & had bought the material in a bizarre. She left it for Mum as a gift, she passed it on to me, I passed it to you & more than 25 yrs later it has been transformed into a summer dress. I guess it may have been used for some kind of sari in the Middle East.’



A couple of years ago I decided it was time to give it a new lease of life and I dug it out of my loft, made a trip to The Remnant House in Harrogate (where I used to spend many lunchtimes routing through the bargain bins in my former working life) to buy a pattern and some contrasting fabric, but then never got any further with it.


This poor little piece of fabric had waited around so long, and was special to me because of the link to my friend, so I wanted to make at least a half decent job of it! I took very few photos of the work as it progressed, mainly because I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing!!

I’m pleased with the result. It’s not perfect but it’s definitely wearable and I’ve successfully done elements I’d never tried before such as binding the armholes and inserting darts. As I am supposed to be learning, developing and acquiring new skills, I also now know  that I really need some lessons in fitting zips!!

Next I’m going to be talking about my first experience of patchwork & quilting  – something I’ve never done before and have really wanted to try since I was about 10 years old!! Also look out soon for some of this which I’m going to try next week and am very excited about….

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A Clutch of Completed Creations

I’ve had a little flurry of finished projects over the last couple of weeks.

First, and most importantly, I completed my latest design. The yarn I’ve used is the most gorgeous yarn, Sublime Alpaca DK. I loved working with this gorgeously soft yarn and the colour choices were influenced by my inspiration, but it also comes in a wider range of delicious colours.
It still needs to be assessed by my City and Guilds tutor before I can publish the pattern.

The design was inspired by the little shell which I found on a walk form Warkworth towards Amble in Northumberland earlier this year, it is shown here with some of the yarn!

Now I was on a bit of a roll I dug out a vest/tank top which I had knitted but not sewn up and spent an evening sewing seams and stitching in all the ends, then it need a jolly good steam and, voila…another project sewn up!! (literally…sorry)

The yarn I used was Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply and I knitted if from a magazine we had hanging around in the shop. I really like playing with this yarn which has very nice stitch definition and is 100% merino so feels really special.

I think it was the last couple of days that the shop was open and I’d got to the point where there wasn’t really anything much to do…no shelves to fill, no cleaning to do, no newsletters to write, no orders to send. Surrounded by unsold wool I picked up this unsold magazine from spring/summer 2012. Flicking through it I spotted a pattern I liked and looked at the Rialto 4ply on the shelves behind me, then I played a game of stacking up the different coloured balls of wool to see which colour combination I liked the best! This is a game I can play all day long and not make a final decision but I forced myself to choose a colour scheme, found the right sized needles and spent the rest of the day knitting!!!

At the moment I am on a mission to learn and explore the world of textiles, and my latest challenge to myself has been to sew a dress, which I finished off at the weekend. I want to write more about this project later but, as my first dress making project in over 20 years I have mildly impressed myself!!!

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Salts Mill

I am being kept occupied this summer driving my golf-mad son around to different courses where he has matches and competitions. This is how I found myself in Saltaire at 9am on a Monday in August!

I could have headed home but I haven’t visited Salts Mill for a few years and it’s always worth popping in to have a browse around the shops and look at the paintings and artworks by David Hockney and others. The mill doesn’t open until 10am so I found myself a lovely coffee shop and spent some time wandering around. It was a lovely morning and very quiet.

The Mill opened in 1853, built by Sir Titus Salt alongside the adjoining model village which was to house his workers. Production of cloth at Salts has not taken place since  1986 but, the following year, the mill was purchased by the late Jonathan Silver, who re-imagined it as a place where culture and commerce could thrive together.

In 2001, Saltaire became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO noted: “Saltaire is an outstanding and well preserved example of a mid 19th century industrial town… The layout and architecture of Saltaire admirably reflect mid 19th century philanthropic paternalism, as well as the important role played by the textile industry in economic and social development.”

If you are visiting for the first time, don’t use the side entrance as I did, make sure you go in through the new (since my last visit) main door where you will find information on what there is to see and where to find it as I did not find the signage around the place very clear. After I pleasant wander round the various shops I watched a film about the history of the building which I found very interesting even though I have been on 2 excellent guided tours of the village in the past (school trips with my boys when at Primary school).

Finally, I visited the 3rd floor. First of all I spotted some wool in the gallery called People and Process: a History of Salts. People and Process tells the story of the Mill through objects great and small: machinery, clothing, art – even a precious plate from the lavish opening banquet of 1853, to which Sir Titus Salt invited 2,440 workers and 1,310 guests.

There was also an exhibition called ‘The Arrival of Spring’ by David Hockney. This set of 49 original works were drawn by David on his iPad in 2011, and printed at an incredible scale. This was so inspiring,  I really like the idea of a study like this which gives the opportunity to really look and be amazed at the little things you might have otherwise missed. Well worth a visit!

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British Wool Show 2016

This afternoon I thought I would just share my favourite things from the British Wool Show 2016 which took place on Friday and Saturday. Over recent years Needlecase has had a stand at the show so it was a different experience to be there as a visitor this year!! Although the show is aimed at raising the profile of British wool and wool products, and these were definitely on show, there were other interesting items there, which didn’t quite fit into this description. I had 3 clear highlights of my visit to this show.

I really liked the Turnacre stand which as well as hand spun yarn from their own flock, had yarn produced from fleece from other small British breeders and/or keepers of Ryelands and Coloured Ryelands. Julie was actually spinning yarn on the stand, and this embroidery (which she told me had won 2nd prize in an Embroiderers’ Guild competition), really spoke to me.


Another highlight was seeing the Stamford Bridge Tapestry being stitched  and the work produced so far on display. This project is described as the ‘missing link’ in the story of 1066 and is intended to fill the gap of the existing Bayeux and Fulford tapestries. I love to see needlework being used as artwork and this project really caught my interest. The ladies who were doing the work were great to chat to and I was able to have a really good nosey around at what they had done, how they had done it, and what they were going to do.

And the third highlight was the stand being run by the Knitting and Crochet Guild. They had a copy of the book Stitches in Time by Sue Bradley, which features knitwear designs that draw on different historical periods for their inspiration, including Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Rome, Byzantium, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the 18th century, the Victorian era and the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The book had a lot of information about the history of fashion with loads of illustrations but the best bit was that the author has donated all her samples produced whilst coming up with the knitwear designs to the guild and they had them all in a big bag!! I had a brilliant time rummaging through all these samples, admiring, examining, working out what type of yarn had been used, it was a real pleasure and I made a bit of a mess of their display table (don’t think they minded too much)

Because I’d been to Woolfest not long ago and we are still sorting out stock from the shop, I was on a limited budget for buying more yarn but I did manage to make a few small purchases.

I also took a few more photos of interesting things!!

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Holiday Sewing

Hi. As I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve just been away for a bit of a holiday in Spain. As it’s so hot at this time of year, and we don’t have little children to entertain anymore, we didn’t do very much apart from relax with the odd cocktail or read a book on a sun lounger!!!

As you might guess though, I am not able to relax fully if I don’t have some knitting or sewing to hand. I always try to take something with me when we go anywhere, just incase I get a bit bored or need something to occupy me!! Even if I don’t end up needing it, I always feel better for just knowing it’s there.

We were a bit limited for space so I took a small bag with some embroidery supplies in it.


Naturally after a couple of days I felt the urge to get creative and out came the needle and threads.

First of all I finished off this little floral number. I found this design on Pinterest and just drew it with a pencil onto a piece of fabric that was hanging around not doing anything in our loft. I tried to keep the colour scheme really neutral and am very pleased with the finished result. The next challenge will be to find out what this piece of work is finally going to be. I’m sure it will speak to me at some point soon and let me know!!

After that was done I re-visited this feline design which came to me one day last summer when I was just driving along minding my own business and it decided to pop into my head. I had drawn the outline and done some stitching with it before, I even went to Clayfever in Tadcaster and painted him onto a vase! I have made a few items with this design on, some of which you can see below, and really felt the need to see what else I could do with it.

I decided this time I would have a pair of cats and did some rough tacking stitches onto the fabric just so I had an outline to follow. I then went absolutely crazy with the lazy daisies filling in the outline of one of the cats.


With the second cat I decided just to stitch into the negative space and went with the neutral colours again.


The design is coming on well and I am really pleased with how it’s looking so far. When it’s finished I think it might have to turn it into a gift for someone!!

Well that’s what I got up to on holiday and now I’m home and getting on with some more projects, hoping to learn lots along the way.


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Woolfest 2016

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since we closed the shop and this weekend we’re wizzing off on holiday but I just wanted to write something about my trip to Woolfest the other week. It was the day before the shop was due to close and the morning of the surprising Brexit result so it was a very welcome distraction to escape to the wonderful world of Woolfest for a few hours. I’ve read a few blogs about this years show. Kailyard Knitter has written a very detailed account of her visit and Liz Reed wrote about her experience of being a stall holder.

I love going to Woolfest, I first visited in 2010 and have gone back as often as possible since then.

It was nice to see a couple of people from my City and Guilds course, Debra Kobasa has written in her blog about her fantastic experience after being awarded the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers award and Nicola was there with her sister on their own little stand. Take a look at the gorgeous girls dress kits which combine knitting and sewing.

It was quite crowded when I arrived but after some lunch I was able to get a few photos.

Then I got down to the serious business of choosing colours and making purchases.

I really like the mini-skeins of yarn which mean you can have more colours to play with when making swatches.

I can’t wait to get experimenting with my new aquisitions but first I need my little holiday in the sun and then I have to knit a Fashion Accessory for module 10 on my City and Guilds course!!



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Cables with Coffee

Not long after we opened our shop in Tadcaster, a customer came in looking for a pattern for a cable knit cushion. At the time we didn’t have anything like that so I decided to write one. The result was a chunky knit cushion in a heart cable which fastens at the back with rustic coconut buttons.

chunky heart blue back chunky heart blue front

I’ve knitted a few versions of this cushion over the years in various yarns. The original one is done in Sirdar Escape and I bought lots of different shade of this yarn, selling kits for customers to make their own cushions. The kits proved very popular, containing the knitting pattern, the yarn and the buttons.

Some customers wanted to use a different yarn so, if they bought the yarn from us, we would let them have the pattern for free!!

chunky heart cobble front Selby-20140709-00096

Today I met my friend Karen and her 3-year-old daughter for coffee at Moo Café in Boston Spa and look at these cushions they had, I was so excited when I spied them through the window!!


They are surely knitted from my pattern and it was such a thrill to see them.

I asked the lady, who served us with our delicious coffee and cake, where they had got them from and she said they had come from a charity shop!!

This got me wondering who had knitted them and how they had ended up in a charity shop. Also racking my brains to see if I could remember who might have bought this pretty heather shade of chunky yarn (which looks great with the tartan blankets that Moo already had) from me.

Whoever they are has certainly put some time into knitting them up beautifully and added their own interpretation as, instead of  sewing them up so that the 2 heart cables sit at the front of the cushion as I do, they’ve put just one single heart in the centre which looks different but I like it!!

Do you know who knitted these cushions? Do they know what home they’ve found? They look like they were meant to be there!!!




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New Needlecase – New Start

For the past 6 years, Needlecase has been a family owned knitting supplies shop, based in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. We stocked a wide range of hand and crochet knitting wools and knitting yarns.

As well as stocking the products we also offered friendly, fortnightly knitting circles, knitting workshops and crochet courses. The aim was for Needlecase to be somewhere you could come and relax and learn new skills over a coffee and biscuit.

We loved to promote all kinds of different and creative knitting, and crocheting crafts, in order to encourage more people to learn and develop their skills. Friendly service and willingness to share expertise with everyone, whatever your age or ability were very important to us.

At the end of June 2016 Needlecase will close it’s doors in Tadcaster, when the lease on our shop comes to an end, and we move on to new adventures.

The purpose of this website is still very much sharing the joy. I will share with you things that Inspire me, and I will share Ideas and Information which I find as I follow my passion for knitting and knit design.

Keep coming back for more information in the coming months



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More Can Crochet will Crochet

My Mum Jean has been reminiscing about learning to knit and crochet.

My interest in yarns and things knitted and crocheted goes back longer than I can remember. I was born during WW2 when most things were scarce, including toys and books. My mother had a hard-back book with pictures of people wearing all kinds of garments which had been knitted or crocheted. I still have that book bearing my early scribbling. It has patterns for garments made mostly from 3 and 4 ply wool and things crocheted from fine cotton in lacy designs.

When I was a bit older I would play with her sewing box, investigating all the tins of pins and reels of cotton contained in it. The button box was a real treasure trove and buttons could be laid out in many different formations and perform all kinds of manoeuvres, each type of button taking on its own character. Then, somehow, I learnt to knit. I can’t exactly remember those first few stitches and whether it was my Mum, or Nanny and Auntie Cissie, or Mrs Appleby, next door but one, who started me off. I remember my friend Kathleen was also starting off at the same time. Mr Appleby was a bit of a comedian and used to say he could hear us dropping stitches!

Anyway, that was the start of my knitting career which has stood me in good stead over the years. Several times I have tried to teach myself to crochet, and even succeeded in producing a few items, but it never took hold of me in the same way that knitting did until last year when Helen Jordan was doing an improvers’ crochet course here in Tadcaster. She got us to make a scarf using Jawoll sock yarn, which in itself is gorgeous, and using a chevron pattern. I found it really addictive and when the scarf was finished it was just the right present for a friend who was moving on. So I made another using some West Yorkshire Spinners’ printed 4ply Blue Faced Leicester, and when that was finished it became a Christmas present for someone. I’ve been trying my hand at other things and gaining more experience, but I think I feel the urge coming on to make another chevron scarf!

This is a similar scarf done by Helen in a chunky yarn but it would look lovely in something like Sirdar Heart and Sole sock yarn, Sirdar Hush or Debbie Bliss Angel.

My latest crochet project which I’m trying out at the minute is a Hayfield pattern (7257) for a blanket made of Flower Motif squares. I’ve put a section together to display in the shop but I think I’ll carry on with it and see how big it becomes.


I’ve used Country Style Double Knitting wool in greens, blues, and pinks. The pattern says use a 5mm crochet hook but I think I would use a 4.5mm because the squares have turned out just a little bit larger. When I saw the pattern at first I thought the design was too open but now I think it would make a lovely warm throw or a bedspread.

The next Beginners Crochet class at Needlecase is on 16th May. If you would be interested in another ‘next steps’ class where Jean learnt to make the chevron scarf, we would be happy to book Helen to come along and run it again. Let us know and we’ll set a date!!