Thursday, 11 February 2016

Hearts and Roses Fabrics and Tips for Patchwork Quilters

Much as I love painting and illustrating and various crafts, in the past few years, I've discovered that I'm practically addicted to pattern-making! 

So, as I've also done a fair amount of patchwork and quilting over the years, I suppose it's almost inevitable that when I create a pattern collection, the idea of designing sets of coordinating fabrics that could be used for patchwork and quilts is somewhere at the back of my mind.

Today I'd like to present one of my collections, with the aim of demonstrating how easy it is to mix and match the fabrics successfully, if they all come from the same collection.

As we're coming up to Valentine's Day, it seemed appropriate to begin with my romantic 'Hearts and Roses' collection. 

The red roses were originally painted by hand but the collection as a whole involved considerable digital input.

Please click on the image below to see the full collection -

TIP! If you would prefer to buy your fabric from a UK company, my Hearts and Roses collection is also available from Woven Monkey, based in Derbyshire.

It's a while since I did any 'real' patchwork or quilting, due mostly to lack of time. But I've found an outlet for my love of patchwork by creating 'faux patchwork' for soft furnishings in my photo-editing program - and these may provide you with some ideas for your own patchwork products, whether you are a beginner or an experienced quilter looking for fresh inspiration.

Patchwork - sewing pieces of fabric together to make a cloth with a larger design - is an ancient art, going back 5,000 years in China and fragments of patchwork have even been found in Egyptian tombs. 

And patchwork is practised all over the world, though nowadays there are probably more people making patchwork and quilting in the USA than anywhere else. Having visited the American Museum in Bath, I was entranced by the Quilts and Textiles I saw there! 

But I should imagine that in the past, the art of patchwork often arose out of necessity - finding a use for scraps of fabric, rather than throwing them away. A kind of 'recycling' that really appeals to me!

That's how I went about my first ever attempt at patchwork; I cut up old summer dresses and skirts, both mine and my daughters', and made a cushion cover in my favourite colour - blue. It consisted of pieces of plain denim blue, lots of floral mini-prints in blue and white and the occasional 'putty-coloured' hexagon for balance.

At the time, I didn't have as many books on patchwork as I have today and it was well before the days of the internet. So I thought I'd take an 'easy' route and make a random design, just deciding on each hexagonal piece as I went along. 

Big mistake!!! I've since discovered that choosing the pieces one at a time as I went along was probably one of the hardest things to do and that it would all have gone much more smoothly if I'd worked to a plan. 

Soon after I started, I heard that I'd missed a series of tv programmes about patchwork as an antidote to stress. But that first venture of mine was anything but stress-free. However I eventually finished it and I was genuinely pleased with the result. Sadly, one of our cats took a liking to it too and it ended up rather shredded by his claws as he kneaded it - as they do! - before settling down for sleep.

But how on earth can you plan a 'random' patchwork pattern? Surely it's a contradiction in terms? Not quite. Here's a blog post from an experienced patchwork quilter that shows one good, stress-free way to plan a 'random' patchwork. 

Much as I admire the intricate block patterns I saw in the American Museum, for use in my home, I actually prefer a quilt with a more evenly spread choice of fabrics, with no one colour or pattern dominating.

And that's easy for me to plan as a 'faux-patchwork' on my computer, in my photo-editing program! I can easily move the patches around and get a good view of the overall effect without having to lay out all the pieces on a flat surface where they could easily blow away.

Here are the colours I've used, together with white - quite a limited palette. But it seems more varied because I've used the colours in different ways, as checks and polka dots that appear to 'dilute' the colours whilst still making sure they all coordinate well.

So here's a very simple but effective lay-out of squares of related fabric pieces, suitable for a beginner. You don't need to follow it exactly - it's always good to add your own, individual touch to your work. But it'll give you an idea from which to develop your own lay-out.

Idea! For a relatively quick and easy project, you could simply quilt this fabric, following the lines of the squares!

And here are some of my 'Hearts and Roses' patterns on home and fashion accessories in my Posh & Painterly store at Zazzle - 

- they might even give you some ideas for craft projects using these 'Hearts and Roses' fabrics!

I shall be showing you more of my coordinated Fabric Collections in future blog posts, as well as Home Decor tips - so please keep popping by to check what's new.

And your comments are always very welcome!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Mother's Day Greeting Cards and Gifts Ideas

Mother's Day - or Mothering Sunday, as it is traditionally known here in the UK - falls on different dates in different countries.

Here in the UK, Mothering Sunday is always celebrated on the third Sunday before Easter and as Easter is a 'movable feast' - and very early this year! - there is no fixed date for Mother's Day. (This year Mother's Day is on March 6th in the UK.)

But I realise that elsewhere Mother's Day is celebrated much later in the year, towards summer, so I hope I've included enough suitable floral designs for early summer as well as early spring!

You can read about the origins of 'Mothering Sunday' in this article, which also describes the kind of gifts that are often given to mothers in the UK, along with special greeting cards and flowers.

The article doesn't, however, mention that tradition has it that when girls were 'in service' walked home to visit their mothers, on their day off, often across fields and down lanes, they would pick a posy of wild flowers on the way, as a gift.

As you'll probably see from my collections below, I love flowers, even though I've become sensitive to many of the more highly scented blossoms in recent years. Nevertheless, I treasure my little garden and take photos or paint the flowers whenever I can.

Almost any mother will appreciate a bouquet of flowers on Mother's Day or even a pretty little posy of garden flowers! And breakfast in bed, a meal at a favourite restaurant or you might even like to bake her a cake yourself! (Simnel Cake is traditional for Mother's Day as well as Easter - recipe here)

But it gets a little more difficult if you no longer live close to your mother, too far away to visit in person - and that's becoming a lot more common as time goes on.

In any case, however much they're appreciated at the time, flowers will fade and die and edible treats, well, once they're eaten, all that remains is the fond memory of them! So with that in mind, I've created quite a wide selection of more lasting gifts for Mother's Day - most of them as inexpensive as a special Coffee Mug to personalize for your mother, and a few more expensive gifts, such as the pillows or cushions, some of which are also ready for you to personalize.

And of course, for that extra-special finishing touch, I've provided gift bags and wrapping paper to match many of the Mother's Day greeting cards and gifts!

Mother's Day Greeting Cards and Gifts with Photos -
Here are some very pretty Mother's Day Cards and matching Gifts - with photos of Bluebells, Tulips and brilliant pink Wild Roses. 

So take your pick and have fun personalizing them for Mother!

Just click on the image below to see the full photographic collection - 

Collage Mother's Day Gifts and Greeting Cards -
Such a pretty collection of Mother's Day Greeting Cards and matching gifts for your mother! There are Coffee Mugs - some of them to personalize and Pendant Necklaces, as well as Pillows/Cushions and even some matching Wrapping Paper to add the finishing touch! The charming floral designs are all made from hand-painted paper collage and are sure to be favourites!

Just click on the image below to see the full 'Collage' collection -

Mother's Day in Watercolours!
Watercolour is probably my favourite medium for capturing the essence of the more fragile-looking flowers, such as Sweet Peas, Poppies and Roses, with their almost translucent petals. 

These Mother's Day greeting cards could make a wonderful accompaniment to a bouquet or posy of flowers. And in this collection, there are flowers that will be in bloom from March onwards through into summer, so you'll probably be able to find them no matter what date Mother's Day is celebrated in your country. 

But if not, there are gifts here with many of the same flowers that you can be sure your mother will treasure!

Just click on the image below to see the full 'Watercolour' collection -

Patterns for Mother's Day -
One hundred gifts and greeting cards for Mother's Day - all with floral patterns, some painted in watercolours, others from hand-painted paper collage motifs!

All of the cards and many of the coffee mugs and pillows are ready for you to easily personalize. And there's even matching gift-wrapping paper and gift bags for many of the designs. 

What could better demonstrate your care and thoughtfulness on Mother's Day!

Just click on the image below to see the full 'Pattern' collection - 

Mother's Day Greeting Cards and Gifts with Floral Oil Pastels
If you're looking for something a bit different for Mother's Day, you've come to the right place! These Mother's Day greeting cards and coffee mugs feature my original oil pastel paintings of garden flowers. 

Mother's Day is celebrated on different dates in different countries but they are all in spring and early summer. So here are flowers that bloom in spring - daffodils and tulips - and early summer - wallflowers and poppies. 

All are ready for you to personalize with your own greeting.

Just click on the image below to see the full 'Oil Pastels'collection -

Just for fun - Mother's Day Medals!
Strike a special medal for a Very Special Mother! The medals on these brightly coloured Mother's Day greeting cards and gifts are all individually made from hand-painted paper collage and any mother would be proud to receive them. 

So go on, reward her for being the best mother in the world and see the smile on her face when she opens it! 

(Don't forget that you can choose from a wide range of Case-mate cases by clicking on the menu below Style Options - Device Type)

Just click on the image below to see the full 'Mother's Day Medals' collection -

Mother's Day Cards with Welsh Language Greetings
Here's a collection of pretty, floral Mother's Day Cards with the greeting in the Welsh Language. Sure to be a hit with any mother who speaks Welsh, they all feature the same attractive floral designs as English Language cards. 

You can personalize the inside message and the front cover greeting of some of them as well. Make Mother's Day special with one of these charming Welsh Language greeting cards for your mother!

Just click on the image below to see the full 'Welsh Language Greeting' collection -

Although the celebration of Mother's Day has some common features around the world - showing love and, particularly, gratitude to our mothers, or mother-figures in some cases - there are, as you would expect, a few small variations in the customs that are observed, which you can read about HERE.

Whereas at one time Mothering Sunday was celebrated by making the journey to visit one's 'Mother Church', rather than one's actual human mother, in many countries Mother's Day has become entirely secularised and heavily commercialised. Greeting Card stores and florists reap the financial benefits of children, young and old, wishing to show their gratitude for all that their mothers have done for them, raising them and caring for them with the kind of enduring love that, for the most part, only mothers (or mother-figures) know how to give.

But short of every child, of whatever age, making their own Mother's Day greeting card and picking a posy of wild flowers from the wayside for their mothers, this is probably inevitable! But as long as we all remember that it's not how much money we have to spend that counts, but rather, the care and thought that goes into our choice of Mother's Day Greeting Card and Gift.

I remember scraping together my pocket money, as a child, to buy my mother a tiny bottle of perfume that she liked. It wasn't a classy, expensive perfume but it did smell nice and the bottle was a very pretty colour and shape - and she was thrilled that I had noticed what she particularly liked so it gave pleasure to both of us when I saw the look of surprise and pleasure on her face.

So be sure to take some trouble with your choice of Mother's Day Card and gifts this year. 

It really is 'the thought that counts' - as long as the 'thought' is translated into action! A phonecall, a visit, a Mother's Day Greeting Card, flowers, a cake or gift - whatever seems most appropriate to you. 

Just don't let this special day go past unremembered!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

St David's Day Greeting Cards and Gifts

St David's Day (March 1st) is less widely celebrated than St Patrick's Day, but even so, it is celebrated by the Welsh community in Patagonia as well as in Los Angelesamongst others, some of them listed here!

Unfortunately, although the devolved Welsh Assembly in Cardiff wants to respond to the wishes of the people of Wales, who would like their national Saint's Day to be a public holiday, the Westminster government refuses to agree to it. Nevertheless, a great many Welsh people find ways to celebrate St David's Day with eisteddfod's, male voice choral concerts, flying the Welsh Flag, wearing Daffodil or Leek hats or parades in Welsh traditional costume!

What could be more typical of Wales than a girl in the traditional Welsh costume, with its tall black hat, red cape, black skirt and lots of white lace? This is just a small selection of the St David's Day greeting cards and Welsh Girl gifts in my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru Zazzle store, many of them ready for you to customize.

Click on the image to see the full 'Welsh Girl' collection - 

So who was St David, the Patron Saint of Wales? 
You can read what little is known about him hereBut in spite of knowing so little about him, the people of Wales are very enthusiastic about celebrating St David's Day - Wales is, after all, a Celtic nation and they have a tendency to be pretty passionate about everything they do. It seems to be in the DNA - and, by the way, that's probably why I wholeheartedly support the Welsh Rugby team, in spite of being English - even when Wales play against England. It's infectious!

A few years ago, I designed and printed St David's Day greeting cards with collage Red Dragons and they flew off the display stand in local shops!

More recently, I've designed more Red Dragons - like many artists, I find them irresistible to draw! Curious about how the Dragon comes to be a symbol of Wales - a sheep might be more appropriate, as there are more sheep than people in Wales! - I did a bit of internet searching. This is what I found - Red Dragon - The Red Dragon of Wales. 

However, picturesque though the dragon is, I think the choice of a dragon for the main Welsh national emblem is purely symbolic. When I was researching St Carannog for another of my illustrations for the Lost Angeles celebrations, I discovered that in many myths and legends it was customary to represent any wicked, bloodthirsty warlord as a dragon.
Not that my most recent dragons are in any way wicked or even fierce-looking!

Here are just a few of my Greeting Cards and Gifts with a Red Dragon, one of the best-known symbols of Wales. You can find many more greeting cards and gifts with a Welsh flavour in my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store. 

Click on the image to see the full 'Red Dragon' Collection -

I mentioned that some Welsh people wear 'daffodil' hats, not only on St David's Day, but there are many to be seen in the crowds at the famous 'Six Nations' rugby tournament in the springtime, whenever Wales are playing. There are often giant leeks to be seen as well, another of the traditional Welsh emblems! Why daffodils? And even more puzzling, why leeks? 

Well, I was intrigued by this - Wales seems to have so many special symbols, surely the humble leek isn't necessary? So I did some googling and what I discovered is included in this earlier blog post - it's quite a tale!!!

Daffodils are one of the national emblems of Wales, along with the Leek, the Harp and the Red Dragon. So one of these 'Daffodils' St David's Day cards might make a welcome change from the usual Red Dragons! Also the 'Daffodils' gifts would be welcome at any time of year and there are plenty more to choose from in my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store on Zazzle.

Click on the image to see the full 'Daffodils' collection -

A couple of years ago, I decided to open a specifically 'Welsh' store, Posh'n'Painterly Cymru, on the Zazzle platform. 
And the wide choice of Welsh symbols set me off designing more greeting cards and gifts that incorporated them, including this one that features them all -

Here's the blog post in which I launched them and you might be interested to read some of my observations about Wales, having only moved here from England quite late in life. 

So here are just some of the many Greeting Cards and Gifts with the traditional Welsh Symbols in my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store:

Click on the image to see the full 'Welsh Emblems' Collection -

Living in Wales seems to provide me with a multitude of inspirational images that I can draw on for my greeting card and gift designs! 

There are, of course, the traditional Welsh Tapestry designs - 

Click on the image to see the full Black and White Welsh Tapestry collection -

Lots more, in different colours, in my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store!

And then there are my Silly Sheep!

Click on the image to see the full 'Silly Sheep' collection -

One of these cosy Throw Blankets would make a wonderful winter gift!

Click on the image to see the full 'Throw Blanket' collection -

And then, of course, there are the Coffee Mugs, some with the text in Welsh!

Click on the image to see the full Welsh Coffee Mugs collection -

Not forgetting my special collection of Welsh 'Gifts for Him'!

Click on the image to see the full 'Welsh Gifts for Him' collection -

And taking off my 'Designer's' hat in favour of my 'Painter's' hat, here are some prints and posters from my original soft pastel paintings of Wales -

Click on the image to see the full collection of 'Fine Art Images of Wales' -

I hope you've enjoyed this 'taster' from my Posh'n'Painterly Cymru store. 

And I wish you a very Happy St David's Day, wherever you are and however you spend it!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Primroses and Violets for a February Birthday

Finding a different birthday card for a friend or relative, year after year, can be a challenge, especially if we're looking for something that will be special to that person.

I've just been ordering birthday cards for my friends and trying to remember which ones I sent them last year! 

Of course it helps that so many of the cards we can buy online can be personalized. It's not difficult to do and yet it can make a big difference because the recipient will know that we didn't just rush out to the nearest store and pick up the first card we found!

A 'photo card' is another option - slightly more complicated to create but not too daunting, especially once you've done it a few times.

And here's another idea - take advantage of the 'Birth Month Flowers'! Each month has at least one well-known flower designated to it. You can read about them on this website. Some of the suggested flowers seem completely out of season for me, here in the UK.

But both of the February Birth Month Flowers, the Violet and the Primrose, are very familiar to me and relate to the right time of year - more or less!

I have plenty of wild violets in my front garden! When I first moved into my house, I tried to get rid of them to make room for the flowers I wanted to plant. But because a quite rapidly growing Magnolia Tree spreads its roots throughout the garden, it was a losing battle. So I gave up and allowed my front garden to become a 'woodland' area with the only plants that enjoy the shade and the poor soil - mainly bulbs, lilies of the valley and the violets! The lilies of the valley are gradually spreading from one side and the violets from the other and they almost meet in the middle and I'm wondering which will win when they eventually meet!

Here's a webpage about 'How to Grow Wild Violets'  - not that mine have needed any help from me; they manage pretty well all by themselves. But I didn't know that they are edible until I read this article.

As I wrote in this earlier blog post, these little Wild Violets don't add a lot of colour to a garden, especially where they are often almost hidden amongst the fallen leaves. It was only on closer inspection for the purposes of painting them, that I 'got to know them' and began to appreciate them. They certainly live up to their description of 'Shrinking Violets', another of my earlier blog posts!

A Birthday Card or Gift with a 'Sweet Violets' pattern would certainly be special, especially as many of the cards and gifts in my 'Sweet Violets' collection are ready for you to personalize! So go ahead and choose from dozens of 'Sweet Violets' gifts and make it even more personal with your own customization. There's even a choice of 'Sweet Violets' wrapping papers, tissue giftwrap and gift bags to add the finishing touch - and don't forget that if you see a design you'd like on a different product, you can contact me through my store and I'll create what you need, at no extra charge, usually well within a couple of days.

Just click on the image below to see the full collection -

February does seem a little early to be seeing the other February Birth Month Flower - the Primrose. I associate them with springtime, but here in the UK they are usually at their best around Easter Time.

Here's my earlier blogpost about how I used to enjoy going out to the woods to pick them as a child. There is some confusion about whether we are allowed to pick wild flowers - understandably because some are becoming rare in the wild now. But this article from the Wild Flower Society - Wild Flowers and the Law - clarifies the situation and, although the wholesale digging up of wild flower plants certainly doesn't help our countryside to flourish, it's fine to pick a posy of primroses, just as it was when I was a child.

The 'Primroses' image I've used to make the repeating pattern below began as a print I made in a screenprinting class almost 30 years ago! I was living in the centre of Norwich at the time, with not many opportunities to get out into the woodland to see the little pale yellow primroses growing in the wild. But I did - and still do! - often buy the larger cultivated primroses in a variety of bold colours to brighten up my front porch in winter. I've even grown them from seed in the past, which works out a lot cheaper! Sometimes you can plant these cultivated primroses out in the garden once they've finished flowering and if they thrive there, they provide a bright spot when there's very little colour around in the gardens.

And it was from a group like these that I drew my 'Primroses' motifs for the screen print and luckily I kept the original drawing so I was able to paint them in gouache to make the repeating patterns that have become popular!

Here are just a few ideas to make someone with a February Birthday feel really special! The primrose is one of the earliest flowers to bloom but you may not know that it happens to be one of the February Birth Month Flowers. So why not celebrate a February Birthday with a special 'Primroses' Birthday Card and a gift with this pretty Primrose pattern? There's also a range of 'Primroses' gift-wrapping papers, gift bags and even matching gift tags! And you'll find an even greater selection of 'Primroses' cards and gifts if you visit the 'Painterly Florals' section of my Posh & Painterly Zazzle store.

Just click on the image below to see the full collection -

Primroses for a February Birthday
Primroses for a February Birthday  

So, whether you choose Violets or Primroses you can be sure that the Birthday Girl, whatever her age, will appreciate your Birthday Card and Gift choice!