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When I turned 40 last year, some of my girlfriends gave me a voucher for the Make Lounge (they know me well – thanks girls!). Nearly a year later, I hadn’t managed to get to one of their classes so I decided it might be really nice to buy some fabric and make a quilt as a keepsake of the occasion instead.

(I’ve just noticed that the Make Lounge have closed down. They have posted a long list of other similar resources in the UK which has meant several hours of surfing have ensued since I innocently went to grab that link!)

Shortly after buying a stack of gorgeous fabrics, I noticed a feature about quilter and author Cassandra Ellis in Molly Makes. A mention of her workshops in London caught my eye. I was very taken with the idea of doing something a little bit more free form and less traditional. I also thought that a workshop would help to kickstart a big project that might otherwise remain “in stash” indefintely.

Cassandra’s lovely book Quilt Love describes her style as “freeform design techniques, which rely in part on intuition and improvisation, to enable you to create your own contemporary heirloom”. I was really inspired by most of the projects in the book so I was really looking forward to the workshop.

We were asked to bring only the fabric we wanted to use. On the day, there were just two of us in the class. My fellow student Emma was making keepsakes from her Grandfathers shirts. During the workshop she decided that instead of making mini quilts she would make small patchworks to frame. This is one of the projects in the book (Forget Me Not Artworks) and is such a lovely idea.


Cassandra’s loft workshop was a little oasis set up for sewing, with great workspaces and heaps of natural light (studio envy, moi?).


After chatting about design options and looking at some of Cassandra’s amazing quilts for inspiration, I decided to wing it and go totally free form.


For someone who doesn’t really deviate from patterns or recipes at all, this process was so liberating and fun!


Cassandra set us up at a bench with these super cute sewing machines and we went for it!

sewing machine

These machines are really basic but get the job done. They’re quite slow compared to my old but trusty machine, but are much smaller and lighter. I’m definitely going to get one in one of the colour block options for when I teach Miss S to sew (I can’t wait!). They’re a total bargain too – they look like toys but they’re real!


It was such a wonderful afternoon and I would love to attend one of Cassandra’s workshops again if I had the chance. She has another book coming out later in the year called “Cloth”. After having a sneak preview of some of the images and projects I can’t wait for it to come out.

Postcards from Squam

Helen —  June 12, 2013 — 2 Comments

The kind you send when you’re back home. Perhaps with a little love note scrawled on it.

Squam Art Workshops spring 2013

Squam Honeymoon

Honeymoon cabin – my home at Squam

Squam misty

Squam pinecone

Sweet Creature

Sweet Creature from Ysolda’s class by Tatiana


Ysolda taught us the best short row method and other knitterly secrets

Squam Lake

The lake was way too chilly for me to venture in. Others were much braver.

Yarn Bombed Canoe

A yarn bombed canoe

Stephen's shawls

No mistaking whose these are

Stephen West

Stephen West’s colour play class was lively and inspiring.


Colour Play!




Winding some Juno Alice in the appropriately named “Misty” colour way.


Stewart in her gorgeous cardi

yellow flowers

Elizabeth Duvivier

The luminous Elizabeth Duvivier – the woman with the vision who makes it all happen at Squam.

I feel so lucky to have been able to go to Squam, meet many wonderful people and be inspired. My heart is full of joy.

PS I posted a few other pics on Curious Handmade Facebook page too. Have a peek if you’re on FB.

Simple Sunday Pleasures

Helen —  May 20, 2013 — 2 Comments

After the incredible excitement of the launch of the Curious Collective Shawl Project it was difficult to calm down on Sunday (and has been since!).

I decided to try a “soft launch” with a few friends to test out the new polling gizmo I am using and that the instructions were clear. But as soon as I posted it on Ravelry it went crazy. I am so happy that people think this is a fun idea!

I can’t believe what a close run race it is between lace and texture so far! It really isn’t clear what the final result will be this week.

I did manage a few more down to earth activities on the weekend.

I finally cast on and managed a few rows of my Radiance shawl for the Curious Handmade KAL.

Sweet Clement yarn

This colour is electric. Miss L was rather taken by it too. I think she is appreciating the cashmere content!


I did a bit of cooking on Friday for meals for the kids and to stock up the freezer. I made a massive batch of spaghetti bolognaise. In an attempt to include veggies I followed a tip from my friend Oliva who told me about her Green Brew trick. This is a bag of baby spinach and head of broccoli after being steamed and pureed with the cooking water. Mixed in with the mince, the kids were none the wiser. I also added grated carrot to the sauce. I didn’t think it impacted the taste much but the texture was a little weird!

Green Brew

A lovely BBQ with friends on Sunday evening finished the weekend on a very relaxed note. The kids ran around and we caught up on life. Everyone was happy.

Welcome to the very first week of the Curious Collective Shawl Project.

For this project you can join in to help create a new shawl design!

It is a choose-your-own-shawl adventure and you will collectively decide on various design choices through a series of polls over the next five weeks.

Now the first thing I want you to know that this is not a knit along. Not just yet anyway. I’m not even sure there is a name for it as I haven’t seen it done before, but let’s call it a “design along”.

The only design decision I have made at this point is that it will be a two colour shawl. Other than that I have no idea how the final shawl will look – everything else will be up to you!

For the next five weeks I will post a poll here every Monday with a question about the design of the shawl. Then on Friday I will check the results and announce the collective choice.

There is a pattern page for the Curious Collective Shawl on Ravelry where you can sign up to receive the pattern. Until we get to the end of the design process, this will only be a placeholder. Once you have made all the selections then I will spend a week or two finalizing the design, writing up the pattern and testing and anyone who has purchased the pattern will then have access to the full pattern when it is released.

The price of the pattern will be free until 24 May and then gradually increase to full price after the full pattern has been released. So the earlier you go in the better deal you will get!

You don’t have to purchase the pattern to play along with the polls and likewise you don’t have to vote on the polls to buy the pattern. But I think it would be more fun if you do both!

Once the pattern is released I will host a knit along for the pattern.

So for week one here is the poll. Vote away, share the Curious Collective Shawl Project with your friends, and please comment on any other thoughts you have about the design choice!

[polldaddy poll=7113714]