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Monday, 24 October 2016

19th Century compared to 21 Century Traditional English Hexagon Patchwork.

19th Century compared to 21st Century Traditional English Hexagon Patchwork. 

 In this fast world of technology and advancement I think it is rather special the basic tools used to create traditional hexagon patchwork in the 19th century are still the same the 21st century.   Fabric, scissors, thread and paper templates were tools used then, just as they are now.   

Thoughts reflect to the scarcity of paper, the precious commodity of fabric and the availability of thread.  Another essential requirement for the sewers of the 19 century was light and eyesight. Electricity was not used until the late 1880's.  I guess to create beautiful stitches sunlight would have been the only option.   It is easy in this age to take for granted night time rooms filled with false light supplied by electricity and to purchase spectacles as eyesight changes as we get older.

The image above on the left shows a sample piece of hexagon patchwork sample dated 1857.

Fast forward to 2016, the tools and method are still exactly the same. Using modern gadgets like rotary cutters, seam rippers, freezer paper and technology to aid accuracy of preparing paper templates.

Back in the 1970's I used isometric paper to accurate create hexagon paper templates and is still my preferred choice. In the 19th century hexagons and other master shapes were made of wood or metal to draw around.  It was a family occupation, often the men taking care of the design process as the women sewed.

The choice of extensive fabric only a click away.  For me there cannot be a finer pleasure than sifting through my fabric stash to find the exact remnant for a chosen project as can be seen in the images below.  Vintage on left and Victorian on right.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Anonymous Chintz Patchwork Waistcoat by Jackie Wills

Anonymous Patchwork Waistcoat 

Last Saturday the postman delivered a large padded jiffy bag parcel with my name written in large felt pen, clearly not an online purchase!   I struggled to prise open the staples and peeped in side.  I could see a patchwork of strong chintz colours and embroidered thread, baffling but also a tad familiar.

The garment slipped onto the polished walnut table as I stared in silence and disbelief.   Yes, it was definitely a waistcoat  I created more than 20 years ago, inspired by the windows at Buckfast Abbey.

A beautifully typed letter slipped from  the garments folds.  Some of the words are reproduced below:

"Dear Miss Wills

We brought this waistcoat from you at an Exeter Cathedral Summer Fayre many years ago.  We couldn't bear to just give this to a charity shop.  It's a beautiful into which you clearly put a huge amount of time, effort, skill and devotion.  It's still in excellent condition so we are sending it back to where it will be still loved and appreciated.

With sincere thanks for this waistcoat and for the time it belonged to us.

Very best wishes


Anon, if you read this I am sincerely touched and hugely overwhelmed by your gesture,  I will keep it and wear it myself as it fits a treat!  A happy reminder of past stitches, time and creativity.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Spooky True Story about a Waistcoat

Spooky True Story about a Waistcoat

It has been on my radar to write a blog post for several weeks. I was surprised last post was June 2015.   I struggle with juggling home life, work life, creativity, swimming adventures and technology

Yesterday morning I opened and found a message and a couple of photographs from AB.  I instantly recognised the work in the photographs to be a long sold waistcoat.   Distinctly my style, distressed blue denim with hand painted bamboo and abstract hearts along with added embroidery.

AB asked if I could confirm that it was one of my garments and if so what year.

Well, I could definitely confirm that it was one of my waistcoats, I just hoped that I had a photo to prove it.   I searched through my content and found the exact one, referenced TY 724.  In those days I would make a garment, take a random snap for personal reference and sell it.  The date looked like the year 2000.   In those days photos were non digital and and would be printed out via  by the excellent services of Trueprint.

TY 724 is reproduced below:

AB lives in Spain,  he came across the waistcoat in a charity shop.  He said it had been well looked after and in good condition.  Anyway AB wore it to work in Spain and a few people commented on it. Apparently one person knew the designer (me). Right now I cannot think of anyone I know in Spain! How is that for a spooky coincidence!!

Naturally I am delighted that TY 724 has retired to Spain and has found a new owner who will cherish it as much as the first.  


Friday, 12 June 2015

Idea for Patchwork or Needlework Sample. Create Wearable Pocket

Idea for Patchwork or Textile Sample.  Create Wearable Pocket.

So annoying when you are chasing around, phone rings, stops before you reach it or you want to read something quickly and glasses are in another part of building.   For convenience and practical working I need to have mobile and landline phone, plus glasses and handkerchief all in one place without having to search.

Clothes with pockets never seem to work and light purses or bags can be cumbersome around the neck.

Looking for a practical use for a patchwork sample created recently, a wearable pocket was a clear winner.

Easy to make using no fraying fabric.  I used a light nylon mesh.   Cut a rectangle double the size of needlework.  Allow extra around the edges and for seams.   Cut long strip for tie, enough to go around your waist and to make a bow.   I folded tie length in half.

Sew together. 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Helen in the Sea - Textile Pictures by Jackie Wills 2015

Helen in the Sea - Textile Pictures by Jackie Wills 2015

Blog has been neglected recently, partly due to distractions and developing new ideas.

I was inspired to submit some work for selection for the 'Just Add Water' exhibition at Hannahs, Seale Hayne near Newton Abbot.  

I wanted to create a textile painting of wild sea with a swimmer.  Below is Helen in the Sea One.  

Helen in the Sea One by Jackie Wills

This work was inspired by my lovely friend Helen.   Over the years we have shared many fantastical adventures wild swimming, often in extreme conditions in the sea and rivers of Devon.  We were at the Ness Beach at Shaldon, it was a horrid day, the beach was deserted and the sea was crazy. Red stones growling as they rolled in the surf. It was agony to the feet.  I took a photograph as Helen walked in and tamed the sea.  I used my image to create three very different pictures of Helen in the Sea.

Helen in the Sea, building interpretation with paint on canvas and denim

Using ecru canvas on the left and distressed denim on the right I built my interpretation with paint. Texture was applied with machine embroidery, couching with thread and wool. Voile provided further subtile texture. A few other haberdashery oddments were sewn in to finish.   The works then framed.

detail, Helen in the Sea Two by Jackie Wills

Above:  Helen in the Sea One by Jackie Wills 2015

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Easy Way to Colour Patchwork Pattern. Fibonacci & Elongated Hexagons EPP

Easy Way to Colour a Patchwork Pattern. Fibonacci & Elongated Hexagons EPP

I have been hand sewing hexagons for over 45 years.  In the old days I would use isometric paper to design hexagon patterns.  This method works well if your hexagons are all the same size.   My packs of hexagon paper templates include hexagon grids for designing and has one that can be printed free of charge.   These can be photocopied and coloured in.   

The pattern planning changes when different shapes are used in one design.  Fibonacci and Elongated Hexagons come to mind.  This also applies to other shapes that tessellate.   

There is an easy solution.    Lay paper templates out on a flat surface.   Spend time moving shapes around until your eyes are pleased. This will help visualise colours and structure of pattern.
Photograph arrangement, print onto copy paper and colour with crayons.  

Another option is to photograph, create a digital image on computer, insert photograph onto a paint or desk top publishing document. I use Pages on Macbook.   Using a small coloured shape, duplicate many time and place onto the centre of each paper template.   Print.


It is really simple and gives room for experimentation before committing to fabric.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Create a shoulder bag from Patchwork Sample. Easy make Purse

Create a shoulder bag from Patchwork Sample. Easy make Purse

Recently I have been receiving requests for equilateral triangle patchwork paper templates.   They are not currently listed on my websites but are available upon request.  

I decided to create a sample using triangles and really enjoyed the process.   The sample was too nice to put in the cupboard along with many others, so I decided to create a simple bag with it as a feature.

I chose Ecru canvas as it is a firm fabric ideal for this purpose and compliments the glaze of cotton chintz, although I was concerned that it would look a little "plonked" on so I created a gentle blend by machine embroidering some canvas with pretty stitches then making the canvas into hexagons to add to the bottom and top of the triangle patchwork sample.  

After appliqueing the work onto the canvas I couched some string to add more texture and dimension to the design.   The result worked well.

Instead of a blank back of the bag I did a bit more machine embroidery and added some enhancing chintz to break up the solid colour.

I was tempted to put a zip as a closer for the bag, being honest zips look good but I prefer a strip of velcro inside the lining.   It makes easier access and in my opinion more discreet.

See youtube video clip: I have lots of samples and unfinished projects languishing in my sewing room. This slide shows how to make a bag by adding further embroidery. This idea can be adapted in many ways to suit you. I have sewn the patchwork onto canvas fabric and couched string to add some dimension. The bag is simple. Velcro has been used in favour of a zip and remains hidden within the lined bag. The bag can be made any size to suit your requirements.