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One Potato, Two Potato ...

Do I have to count how many dots or how many metres?

Don't be surprised if when visiting the shop you hear us chanting 20, 40, 60 whilst looking intently at a bolt of fabric. We've not lost the plot (well, OK that's debatable in my case!), we're just preparing for our annual stocktake. And with 1700 fabrics in-store and a trillion other products it's a lot to list and count. We've been hard at it for weeks. D-day is on Sunday 2 October, when we do the final listing and if you're free for a few hours, why not join us?

If you can help out from 10-1, we'd love some extra hands. The only qualifications are the ability to look very important whilst writing on a clip board and multi tasking with a cup of tea and a Kit-Kat and a biro. In thanks we'll give you a £25 Hometown gift voucher. Give Marion a call on 01634 838880 or pop into the shop this week if you'd like to join the fun.

 

 

 

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Flowers and Quilts, Quilts and Flowers

It's a natural pairing like strawberries and cream, Fred and Ginger or tea and toast. On fabrics, there's a floral pattern to suit everyone. Whether you like the blowsiness of a peony or parrot tulip, the retro-jolliness of a reproduction feedsack, the miniature prettiness of a ditsy print, or the sophisticated graphic quality of a Scandi pattern. For me, these are all must-have categories of floral fabrics in my stash. Be brave and put the large florals all together for a gorgeous clashiness, or give them room to breathe in a modern quilt with low-value coordinates or a white solid - the choice is yours.

My Mum gave me a glorious bunch of old fashioned roses from her garden today. Placed on her brightly coloured tablecloth, it was like a super-charged still life. Back home, their glowing colours, reminded me of an equally vibrant WIP quilt, that just needs the binding to be completed... And it made me want to start a new project with pinks and oranges ... together! Hot, hot, hot!

So, whenever you're suffering from colour-block, just look in your garden for ideas and quilt colour schemes. Or, if you're not green-fingered, head to your nearest flower shop (I'm very partial to Slinders in Rochester, only 3 doors down from Hometown), and treat yourself to a bunch of inspiration. Stocks, Alstromerias, orchids, gladis - just think of the quilting possibilities.

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Taking it Slow

"Summer time and the living is easy". This is a lovely song and a powerful thought, but it's sometimes hard to do. Whatever stage of adult life you're at: a parent with children, wondering how you're going to fill the next 6 weeks, whilst juggling work commitments and childcare; maybe you've just had a student returned from Uni and are despairing that the house is overtaken by boxes and your sewing room is now back to being a bedroom, so you have no space to play (which let's face it is vital for our well-being); or are you a commuter endeavouring to survive hot tubes and buses? Think of the self-employed worker without a holiday in sight and a slew of deadlines that can't be postponed, even if your brain is muggy; possibly you're working with the general public who are more than a little cranky, because of the hot weather; or maybe you're a pensioner uncomfortable and out of sorts in this heat. For some of us / all of us, sometimes it's not so easy.

A very wise woman (one of my sisters) sent me an article yesterday written by Caitlin Moran in The Times Magazine. I have now read and re-read it several times. It's about being a carer and learning to breathe. To paraphrase and quote from Caitlin's article,

"So we loll our heads, and breathe. We just ... breathe. We are, for the first time in months, in the moment. And there, in less than a minute, is this sudden, deep, black, beautiful rush - black like space, or the sea at night - through the body. ... This is the only thing you want. ... When you breathe this deep, it is impossible to be unhappy or rigid, or fearful any more. Those tiny, automatic shallow breaths we make do with in our day-to-day life? They make us feel slightly deprived; as if we were slowly drowning. They are the panic and the anxiety. But ten breaths like this, and you feel as if you have had an afternoon off. Twenty, and you've returned, tanned, from Corfu."

So my one wish to you all this summer - friends, family, colleagues and customers, is to take time. Be kind and smile at strangers in the street or the elderly neighbour that you don't really know. Don't complain to shop staff and public transport workers about the heat (we do know, we are present too!), seize whatever small moments you can for yourself, dabble with small crafting projects which just keep you this side of sane, and the biggest one of all - just breathe. Take it easy now.

 

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Aaah Bisto.....

I redecorated my office/sewing room last weekend (more on that to follow as the before pictures are hilarious) and walking into the room this morning I was struck again by the sense of "mmm, fresh paint, lovely". It got me thinking on what other smells this week (and memories of scents) had me thinking the same. So here's my top 7:

New paint (especially satinwood as it lingers...!)

Freshly cut grass

Toast and/or cinnamon buns and/or freshly baked bread (I loved having a part-time job way- back-when in Sainsbury's bakery)

Coconut shampoo (it always makes me think of a holiday to Greece years ago with my sister, sitting on the beach and listening to Chris Rea from the beach bar)

The smell of hot air (daily memories of living in the UAE) and also arriving on small planes abroad and that first breath as you step down onto the tarmac

Fig and pear candles for summer and orange and winter spices for the colder months

Hyacinths - sad that they're over for another year - but it's an excuse to go to the flower shop today almost next door to Hometown and find an in-season substitute.

So these are mine, what are yours? Let me know...

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A little goes a long way

Saved by second-hand books and sewing skills...

In the winter sale, many Hometown customers donated and/or bought second hand craft books from us. The money raised was donated to several charities and £120 + gift aid found its way to Cambodia. This is what happened next.

Marion's sister, Janet, is a retired teacher who supports a charity called Mission Direct. She's part of a team who recently worked alongside young Cambodian teachers in community schools in Phnom Penh. Janet and the other volunteers were there to team-teach and run training workshops for the local staff who are not formally trained. The Hometown money paid for much needed dual-language books for their school library.

Janet also visited several NGOs in Phnom Penh who retrain women who have previously been sex workers. Two NGOs in particular focus on teaching sewing and administration skills, thus providing women with the ability to run their own businesses. Janet came home laden with beautiful examples of clothing and bags created by "Daughters of Cambodia" and "Women of Worth, Cambodia".

So thanks to everyone for your support ... books and sewing skills really do change lives!

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Trains and Boats and Planes

It's almost here - yes the long-awaited new 'Rochester Riverside' multi-story car park is due to open this Friday, 29th April This will make car parking in Rochester so much easier. I know these past few months have been 'challenging' for parking; now there's an understatement! And we thank all of you, customers and workshop students alike, for your perseverance in getting to the shop.

Now unlike Henry Ford who was obviously not a quilter (as he only seemed to like one colour on his products), we enjoy the entire spectrum. In celebration of the lighter evenings we painted the haberdashery department a gorgeous sky blue last week and have hung loads of new colourful workshop quilts in-store. And finally to mark the new opening of the car park - race over to our events page for details of an opening discount - beep! beep!

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A word in your ear ...

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A word in your ear ...

I love words. Walking home this evening, it dawned on me that I'm always looking and reading - whether it's seeing a graphic in the greengrocers, a sign-written shop name, banners outside the comedy club or the beautifully written pub chalkboard advertising tonight's folk band. And that's not including the signage on this particular pub which I adore reading, 'Style & Winch Fine Ales & Stouts'.

When I used to travel a lot for work, graphics in other countries were always a delight. Sometimes it was the use of words, not as originally intended..., the gaudy hand painted bill boards of India, or simply the place names and style of the road signs. Isn't arondissement simply a lovely word to say? Living in Sweden I learned to appreciate the simplicity of pared-down graphics, plus of course the delight of extra letters to learn and pronounce.

So here in celebration are a few of my favourite photos. This is just the first tranche - there are plenty more, so let's just call this 'chapter 1 - the blue corner'.

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Labelled with Love

The lovely thing about having a shop is you never know what stories are going to walk in the door. Last week a lovely lady popped in to show me an old quilt from her husband's family. Amazingly she knew exactly who had sewn it, plus where and approximately when (her grandmother-in-law, Immingham near Grimsby and around 1900).

This type of provenance is rare for quilts from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. At a time when quilts were generally sewn as functional bed covers, the last thing on most quilters' minds was recording their details for posterity. The priority was warmth at night for their families! Of all the old quilts I own, only a handful can be pinned down to specific makers, towns or years.  So it's lovely when a little bit of history can be celebrated.

One of the patchwork papers showing the copperplate handwriting

Unfortunately I have too many old quilts providing insulation in my own home to justify buying yet another quilt right now. However, if you would like to be the next step in this quilt's history, the Grimsby quilt is for sale*. This postage stamp style patchwork is hand sewn in 2 1/2 inch squares in a variety of cotton (and possible wool mix and silk mix?) fabrics. It measures 213 x 248cm (84 x 98in). Interestingly it was pieced over papers as the outer row of patches are crinkly and still contain the templates, a technique known as English Paper Piecing. It does not contain wadding, so would make a great topper on a duvet or as a throw for the sofa. A handful of the patches (mostly the lighter weaves have some shredding (as seen in the red patch above), but generally it is in good and clean condition.

And finally, a call to all modern day quiltmakers out there - don't be shy - be proud of your craft skills and label your quilts with pride. Believe me, future generations will thank you when they are trying to piece together their own and other families' histories.

* Sorry, this quilt is no longer for sale. However, we do have other quilts for sale in-store. Call 01634 838880 for more details.

 

 

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Quilting mojo

I'm never at a loss for quilts to make, but like many of us, time is at a premium. But sometimes you see a fabric and just have to sew. On Thursday 2 huge boxes of fabrics arrived, just in time for our Moda Month promotion. It's a lovely new range of 20 graduated solids called Ombre. During the afternoon I was busy cutting a zillion fat quarters for our bumper packs (yep, all the cutting is done in-house at Hometown!) and I think the colours literally just seeped into my brain. So at 11pm last night I started a new quilt in combination with a Canyon Charm pack. I'm returning to an old favourite, Log Cabin, but with a new twist I've been wanting to try. Think I could have sewed all night, but I did need to consider the neighbours and working today! So the sewing machine and fabric is at the ready on the kitchen table for the next round this evening...

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Falling off the Wagon...

Oops... confession time. I've just bought another quilt. How on earth did that happen? Well, I've been sorting through my old quilts in preparation for a talk to a local quilt group in March. And I was doing some online research ... which led to a well known auction site ... where there was an old quilt up for grabs ... and the bids were finishing in 18 minutes. Need I say more! I'll report back when the box arrives from Scotland.

Meanwhile, trying to sort through my quilt collection and just pick some (I am thinking about the available space and suspension in my little car) is like trying to pick your favourite child - they are all nice and all have their merits; even if others don't appreciate them! I think I've narrowed it down to twenty - I don't want to bore the socks off the quilters present. In the meantime the picture here is of a small cutter piece I have, appropriately called the 'Wheel' pattern. This little beauty dates from the 1930s. It's such an unusual design - all hand pieced with tiny hand quilting. It's an intriguing pattern with 4 blocks arranged around an octagon. The solid apricot spokes are surrounded by wheels in a variety of floral feedsacks. And before you ask, cutter pieces never count as quilt purchases; since they're only little, usually a bit worse for wear and someone needed to give them a good home.

 

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What the Dickens?

Yes it's that time of year again - the Dickens Christmas Festival is on this weekend. It's always fun when costumed characters come into the store - mostly it's to buy more bonnet ribbon! Two of my favourites were these 2 folk several years ago - the haberdasher had a wonderful tray full of lace trimmings and thread spools. And no, before you ask, I will not be bonneted and wearing a crinoline - otherwise, there's a high probability that I'd get my hoops tangled and would be wedged behind the counter, rather like a pin-tucked and calico-sprigged beached whale! Far better to be in modern dress and adorned by one of our jolly Christmas aprons as I race around the shop floor and rotary cut at the speed of light...

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Where are the fairy lights?

The elves will be hard at work this week installing some lovely wintry quilts and bunting in the store as part of our Christmas display. We've been inspired by this trio of quilts sewn by Elisabeth Beighton-Delille. Elisabeth's sense of colour is glorious and her workmanship is superb. We're delighted that she will be back at Hometown in the spring teaching more workshops. In the meantime head down to the high street this Saturday and you could meet The Snowman as he switches on the Christmas lights.

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Wrap up Warm

OK, don't try this at home children! Yes this is a gratuitous use of small kittens, but it made me laugh on a day when the central heating is cranked up and I am a not very catwalk-chic version of the layered look.

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New winter workshop list out now!

Yes it's finally here, just click on the workshop page  - to book just call the store on 01634 838880 or pop in and see us.

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Bring an old bag to the store!

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Bring an old bag to the store!

Take the title of the blog how you will! As you know large companies are now charging 5p for plastic bags in England. As a small company Hometown is currently exempt from this charge. However, as a passionate recycler I also want do my bit to encourage Hometown's customers to get into bag-carrying habits. So here is a link to making your own fabric tote (all the materials and haberdashery can be bought at the store). www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/make-an-easy-to-sew-lined-tote-bag

And you could get an extra loyalty card stamp for your efforts - see our Offer and Events page for more details.

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Running off to join the Circus?

Running away to the circus?

Running away to the circus?

Do you ever have that feeling of "oh, that would make a good patchwork design?" Well, at the weekend I saw a fantastic Big Top tent which was just crying out to be a quilt design. Pitched at The Handmade Fair it was a combination of strong colours set against a glorious blue sky, with shark's teeth triangles around the edge and to top it all, decorated with bunting along the guy lines. Oh my, I practically swooned!

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A Moving Tale

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A Moving Tale

I’m having a sort out. Ha! If only the process was as short and simple as that first sentence. I moved home recently (well I say recently, in fact it was several months ago) and of all the 12 moves I’ve done, this has taken the longest. The reasons are various: firstly, the older you get the more clobber you acquire, especially if like me you’ve had different careers, worked for yourself and/or upped sticks and moved abroad; secondly, running your own business leaves little energy for box-unpacking in the evening. (I’m sure you’d rather I open boxes of luscious new fabrics that I’ve ordered rather than my own goods and chattels and dusty tax returns!) And lastly, since moving back from Sweden, much of my life has been in storage, and boy, had I forgotten what I owned.

On my last-but-one move in Helsingborg, we did it the Swedish DIY way – choose a Saturday, grab a load of friends, hire a van and go for it. Friends were amazed at the piles of books, quilts and fabrics that kept appearing from shelves, walls and cupboards. It was like a magic porridge pot that never emptied… However by 4pm we’d finished and were downing beers at the harbour in the late afternoon sunshine.  

Fast forward to 2015 and it’s a whole different story. As each box is unpacked, I’m determined to have a prune of my possessions. However, as the many books, quilting magazines and forgotten fat quarters see the light of day, they all need reassessing before the big cull can begin. Just for starters there are 12 years of Quilters' Guild magazines to flick through, plus files of quilting and teaching resources dating back years. There are more patchwork books than most publishers and enough fabric to act as Hometown’s own supplier should Makower, Moda and Michael Miller ever run short.

The good news is it’s as if I’ve inherited a whole new library, and what tempting possibilities for all this fabric. So if you want to help me and my new streamlined self (deluded, but hey...) the pile of second-hand books and magazines at the shop is pretty impressive and continues to grow. All the money raised is being donated to the Macular Society www.macularsociety.org , so come grab a bargain and help me with my unpacking!

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Family Ties

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Family Ties

I spent a lovely 48 hours for the Bank Holiday weekend with my family in Cambridgeshire. Because of working weekends such family time is few and far between. Arriving at 9pm on Saturday night to a welcoming bowl of hot chilli, fresh bread and incessant chat was like an instant detox.

My niece, Alice, was preparing to head back to Edinburgh University, so the sitting room was piled high with boxes of books, essential supplies, mounds of warm winter clothes and a few luxuries squeezed into spare corners. It was rather like an explorer preparing for an expedition (not surprising seeing as her Dad works for British Antarctic Survey)!

One bulky item definitely heading north is a huge Bargello patchwork quilt sewn by my Mum, Mavis, and this got me thinking about other quilts that have grown up with Alice over the years. Her first cot quilt was individual, colourful and perhaps a curious choice of pattern for a baby quilt. It was a simple, plain Amish Pinwheel - in jewel bright and subtle tones. A lovely little quilt which moved from cot to wall as Alice grew. And the adjectives of individual, colourful and curious were so appropriate, not just for the quilt, but for Alice too.

A 'big bed' quilt followed - this time a string pieced scrappy quilt in soft pastels and and cream. Using a favourite technique, Mavis included tiny scraps, favoured fat quarters and I am sure, newly bought, must-have fabrics. The result is a happy, uncomplicated quilt, used and enjoyed over many years - probably now slightly faded through repeated washings and with perhaps a few snagged quilting stitches, from being dragged around the house and garden in its life as a blanket, tent, princess cape and picnic rug.

And now the big Bargello. This was a quilt that Mum sewed over a workshop weekend - but was never one of her favourites. Probably as she admits because the pattern was super-complicated, although the end result is a stunning quilt. But Alice needed a bigger quilt for warmth, and no doubt a feeling of home and chose this quilt (from the many available!) to take with her. And so the cycle of making quilts for loved ones continues.

So for all those parents, aunties, and Nans out there frantically putting the last stitches into quilts for students. Forget the late night quilting, pricked fingers and unpicked blocks. Just think of the love that you are stitching into every patch and the good wishes that you are quilting into every layer. Quilts are family history in the making and are cherished for years to come.
 

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Summer Sunshine

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Summer Sunshine

No, I'm not being ironic. I'm writing this post as a steady stream of rain is falling from a leaden sky. However, my mind is full of sunshine, summer and sea bathing as I visited a must-see exhibition in London yesterday. Called Riviera Style it's on at the Fashion and Textile Museum and has been extended until 13 September.

http://www.ftmlondon.org

It celebrates  the history of clothing worn in and by the sea over the past 120 years. Everything from demure woollen bathing suits right up to modern Olympic swimwear. My favourites were the beautifully tailored Victorian suits (several featuring a nifty use of ric rac) and the beachwear of the 1940s-50s whose fabric patterns and style would make any lover of retro textiles swoon. The designers at FTM have a lot of fun with their exhibitions. Riviera Style features a 1930s lido and fabulous railway posters from the early twentieth century.

FTM is a brilliant museum - worth going just to enjoy the building. You can't miss it - it's painted bright orange and is just a five minute walk from London Bridge station. Make time for a pre/post exhibition pit stop at the Museum café - featuring pastel coloured Tolix chairs, dinky plants at each table and an array of pastries, second to none. A dose of Mediterranean sunshine whatever the weather outside.

 

 

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Vintage Quilts

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Vintage Quilts

When does a casual interest turn into a burgeoning collection before settling on being an ongoing passion? Well Marion’s love of old quilts has definitely entered the third stage. Her first old quilt, an early 20th century simple squares design was made of rough plaids and pyjama flannels, and was bought at a small antiques arcade in Glasgow for the sole purpose of keeping her warm at night in a beautiful but freezing tenement apartment. Almost thirty years on and the collection numbers more than forty quilts. We hope to share the stories of these quilts with you from time to time.

Bobby-Dazzler String Quilt

This String quilt, was sewn by an unknown quiltmaker in Kentucky, USA probably between 1930 and 1950. It was carefully planned despite using scraps and the four hatchet shapes in each block have been set symmetrically to provide order in a very busy quilt. The entire quilt was hand pieced and quilted in a strong white cotton thread. The patchwork was in poor shape when Marion bought it in 2013. In order to restore it, the quilt was reduced in size and the salvaged fabrics were recycled to patch other blocks where fabrics had shredded and seams had ripped. The binding had also perished and was replaced with a compatible cheery red. During the restoration, one could see from the exposed seams how some fabrics, particularly the pinks and blue polka dot had faded – when made it must have been even more of a ‘bobby-dazzler’! And finally what is a string? Well quiltmakers use the term to describe narrow pieces of scrap fabric, usually less than 2 inches wide.

 

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