Author Archives: Jenna

Hey, Wanna Meet Up In Exeter Next Month?

From Lisa Lam's A Bag For All Reasons. I did a QAYG version using canvas and wadding. It's heavy but lovely!

I finally have a finish! I made this backpack using Nordika fabric designed by the amazing Jeni Baker. The pattern is from Lisa Lam’s A Bag For All Reasons. I used canvas and wadding and did a QAYG method. It’s a big backpack, and the canvas is kinda heavy, so if you were worried about weight you could probably use calico (or as you crazy North Americans call it, muslin). But I’d definitely use that method again. I think it took about 30+ hours of sewing, and my total cost was maybe £60. Which is pretty cheap for an extremely well made backpack. I’m not being vain, honest: I also took the trouble of triple stitching all exterior seams so I know it’s practically indestructible. I recently had a strap pop out of a tote I’d made because it was too full, so now I’m totally paranoid about being embarrassed in public. If anyone attempts to make it and needs pointers, just Tweet/Facebook me and I’ll help out! I’m SewHappyGeek on everything. What a surprise.

AND, I also want to tell you about The Sewing Directory’s Exeter meet up next month! Deets:

Venue – St. Matthew’s Church Hall, Clifton Road, Exeter, Devon, EX1 2LJ
Date – Saturday 14th September 2013
Time – 11am – 4.30pm
Spaces – 35
Price £20 (supplies & refresments included in price)

It’s sponsored by the fantastic Abakhan fabrics (need to make new curtains? They have awesome home furnishing fabrics!) and the inimitable Kerry of Very Kerry Berry will be teaching. I will also be there but I think I’m a participant this time. Appliqué is on the menu and I’m not that good at it, so I’ll probably sit in the back and berate myself tirelessly for screwing mine up. So come join us and see how bad I am! Woohoo! 

And before I shoot off to the craft store with my awesome friend Jae, I’ll be attempting to make a belt for myself based on this wonderful tutorial from make it perfect on Versus. I’ve kinda lost a bit of weight recently (not sure how?) and I need a new belt but I’m picky. So I’ll make my own. 

What are you working on? Come talk to me on Twitter or Facebook! And I’m also jensewhappygeek on Instagram. :) 

Posted in UK craft blog | 11 Comments

Book Review: Contemporary Upholstery by Hannah Stanton

The kind folks over at Jacqui Small sent me a review copy of Contemporary Upholstery by Hannah Stanton. Although the book was free, the opinions are genuine and are really mine.

Chair reupholstered!

Chair reupholstered!

So since I had the book, I figured I’d better give it a genuine test drive. I found this chair at a sewing shop (I know, right?! Best. Shop. Ever.) and while it had character, I wanted to make it sexy. Specifically, Union Jack sexy. Anyway, here’s the chair:
Woo Chairs!Nothing wrong with it, just a little bland. So I started reading about paints, and I ended up using Annie Sloan chalk paint because you don’t have to strip the wood. 0% prep? Yes please!

But obviously painting it isn’t really the tricky part. I (lovingly) read through the book, even the parts I didn’t really need to know because I love logistics. I love the format – it’s a lot like taking a class. The tools are explained very clearly and pictured:

Chair reupholstered!I also appreciated the clear descriptions of techniques. And of the fabrics – it was fascinating AND she’s very good about telling you which fabrics are appropriate for what jobs. I was a little worried I might need to replace the webbing and was a little freaked out that I wouldn’t be able to figure it out, but Hannah seriously knows what she’s talking about, and the illustrations are so clear I stopped worrying about what I might find underneath the seat cover:

Chair reupholstered!Fortunately the webbing and seat had been recently replaced. So I picked out the tacks, and got to work replacing the cream fabric with my Union Jack fabric. The book was extremely clear about what to do (and in what order):

Chair reupholstered!And I’m so proud of myself! (And my husband helped too. But ONLY A LITTLE.) Here’s how it looked all painted but still kinda naked:

Chair reupholstered!And here it is with the new, sexy reupholstery job:
Reupholstered victory!

Union Jack Chair

Reupholstered victory!Look how well that corner turned out! The others? Not so much. BUT! I am HOOKED! You know that feeling you get when you make a really fantastic quilt, like you’ve conquered it? That’s how I feel every time I see this chair in my living room! (Despite the pictures, we don’t keep it in the back garden. That’s just silly.) If you have been wondering whether you’ve got what it takes to turn that dumpy chair into a masterpiece, I recommend giving it a go. And I’d really recommend Contemporary Upholstery by Hannah Stanton as your complete go-to guide. You won’t need another book.

If you want a copy for yourself (and I know you do!), Jacqui Small is offering a discount:

To order Contemporary Upholstery (9781906417918) for £16.00 including p&p* (RRP: £20.00), telephone 01903 828503 and quote offer code JS216. Or send a cheque made payable to: Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department, Littlehampton Book Services, PO Box 4264, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3TG. Please quote the offer code JS216 and include your name and address details. *UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

It’s also available on Amazon UK and on Amazon US

Posted in UK craft blog | 9 Comments

Like a Test Post, Only Weirder

So. Long time no see, eh? I’m sorry about that. We moved, and also I have been having ups and downs in the realm of depression. It’s awesome. But pottering around my new house is cool, and feeding the birds makes me happy, and I haven’t managed to kill any of my orchids yet, so I guess things are looking up.

Seriously, though, things haven’t been all bad! The wonderful editor of Sewing World magazine, Julie Briggs, has ever so graciously put my quilt on the cover of this month’s issue!

My cover!

So, this quilt was a ‘brain project’. I couldn’t really mock it up on EQ7, so I just did the maths and made it. I don’t recommend that for every quilt, but it seems to have worked this time.


I have been teaching though, and it’s quietly keeping me sane. This term we did a sampler quilt to learn different techniques. Some of the blocks I actually finished, some of them I stuck in a drawer. So here’s my sampler:


And I’m off to the Fat Quarterly Retreat this weekend! I’m a little nervous because *people* and *different things* and I’m crap at social stuff, but the sewing sounds fun and I kinda need a mini-holiday. So maybe I’ll see some of you in a few days? :)

Posted in Sewing World Magazine, UK craft blog | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

I Made A Thing! And Some Moving News

warning: written on this bloody ipad so the links aren’t all HTML. Ugh.

Oh my goodness, you guys have been SO supportive about my battle with depression (see post below)- I was overwhelmed at your kindness! I was afraid when I wrote the post that no one would even read it as I’d been away so long, but I really felt I owed you all an honest apology. Thank you so much!

And I’ve been sewing again! I’m a member of Romsey Quilters ( and it’s their 30th anniversary this year so we’re making mini quilts to celebrate. Here’s mine:

What do you think? I got the tutorial and templates from Lee at Freshly Pieced ( and I’m now hooked on making minis from her templates. Seriously, why didn’t I make minis before? I can nearly get one from start to finish in a single day. Talk about instant gratification!

And we have moving news! Apparently we’re moving Friday the 8th. I’ve paid for the movers, and even paid the extra so they will pack us up. However, there are still things we have to do and pack ourselves. I’m especially protective of my sewing supplies. (Aren’t we all?!)

I promise I’ll post pics of my new house soon! I probably shouldn’t post any now since technically it’s not ours yet and that would probably be a bit creepy…

I’ll be really glad when this moving thing is over. I’m so stressed that I guess I’m clenching my jaw all day long without realising it, so at night I can’t sleep because I’m in agony. Seriously, I didn’t get to sleep till 5:30! I’m so silly.

I hope you are all having marvellous weekends, and if you lived nearby I’d have you over for my housewarming party. If I ever get off my bum and have one. Maybe we could have a sewing day instead…


Posted in Finished Products, Finished Quilts, Random Ramblings | Tagged , , , | 30 Comments

The Depression Vacation

Wow. I just realised I haven’t posted anything in over 2 months. Sorry! I’m calling it my Depression Vacation.

When I got back from visiting my family this summer, I basically fell apart. (Not physically; that would be on the news!) I’m not exactly sure what happened, but the result has been that I had to go to the GP and get on sertraline (an antidepressant). It made me sick for a while, and actually made me feel worse for a while too. It was nice to lose some weight, but my husband was so concerned that he told me to stop taking it. I kept plugging along on it because I knew that it’s not unusual to feel like shit when you first start an antidepressant. And in the end it was worth it.

I feel less hopeless, and although my sewing mojo still seems to be on holiday, at least I can function. For a while there, even contemplating doing the washing up or cooking dinner would leave me exhausted and low. Sewing and knitting and writing seemed irrelevant as my entire world and outlook turned a dark shade of grey. Probably I need to increase my dose. It’s very difficult to fight against your own brain when it’s telling you that you’re worthless and that no one gives a shit what you have to say. The gigantic effort of turning on the computer and actually writing something seems so disproportionate to the reward that it’s easier to just do nothing. And that’s what I’ve been doing. For months. Nothing.

Also, we’ve been selling our house and buying another. And it’s been pretty stressful. I’ve cried a few times. But it’s not all bad. IF everything goes through, we’ll be moving into a beautiful house and I’ll even have a whole study to dedicate to my crafts! We could be moving in a couple of weeks, or it might take another 6 weeks. :s

Anyway, I’ve really missed being active online, and I’ve really missed everyone. I miss twitter but I can never really think of anything to say to anyone these days. I suppose that’s the depression, really.

So I apologise for being AWOL for so long. It’s been a difficult fall and winter. I’d like to get back to functioning normally, including blogging, but you may have to bear with me as I deal with depression and moving and who knows what else.  And if you have been feeling low, go see your GP! I was so miserable before the med kicked in and I cannot imagine being that bad indefinitely. I really waited too long before going. I guess it was a combination of wishful thinking (I’ll get better soon. I don’t need help!) and lassitude (Seriously? You want me to leave the couch? Yeah right…) that prevented me getting help sooner.

But I’m feeling much better than I did, say, 4 weeks ago. And the sun is shining and although I have a cold, I also have David Attenborough DVDs and a Mary, Queen of Scots bio. Add some tea and codeine, and things are looking, if not great, at least satisfactory. :)

How’s your winter been?


Posted in UK craft blog | 44 Comments

Manic Monday Linky Party

Still convalescing here…got a bit of a cold and a case of the ‘blahs’. Fortunately it’s half term here so Savi and I both have a week long holiday. Savi’s cough is so rattling and awful that I cringe every time I hear it. Poor kid. It was kind of her to share it with the family… :p Sorry I haven’t done the features from last week – I’ll do a double feature this Friday if I don’t post about it before that.

I sure hope you are all feeling better than I am and that you’ve got a great week ahead!

Linky Party Rules:

  • You can link anything you’ve created – an etsy shop, blog or tutorial, recipe or project, whatever.
  • You can leave up to 2 links
  • Please visit at least one other link and comment!
  • I’ll be featuring a few on the blog on Feature Friday
  • You are welcome to add my party button to your blog, but you don’t have to!

If you’d like to receive my blog feed in your Google Reader (or any other reader) just click on the Feedburner (RSS) link below. :)

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© J C Excell, 2012

Posted in UK craft blog | 7 Comments

Book Review: The Complete Machine Quilting Manual

Joanie Zeier Poole’s book on machine quilting teaches you what you need to know to start free motion quilting. FMQ can be so scary – where do you start? How much do you do? What designs work best? This manual will definitely help you find your bearings.

Chapter 1 is full of lots of tips regarding different types of quilting machines – long arm, domestic machine with frame (my dream is to own one of these!), and even a domestic machine. And don’t worry that you don’t have a long arm – Joanie explains that she prefers to work on a domestic machine and is quite happy with her results. She also discusses essential and useful attachments, accessories, and even setting up your working space.

Chapter 2 is all about planning and preparations. It helps you choose and plan quilting techniques for different types of quilts along with techniques for transferring them to your quilt. Joanie discusses fabric preperation and even when to starch (answer: lightly and often!) as well as thread and needle types and how to choose wadding.

Chapter 3 discusses the varieties of machine quilting – channel, stippling, background and echo as well as others. You’ll learn about moving from shape to shape on the quilt.

Above is an example of filler designs, and you’ll also learn how to plan and quilt designs based on straight lines – there are more than you think! She also discusses how to practice designs before sewing them.

Finally there is a small library of quilting designs for making your own. I think this is a book which would appeal to the beginner and intermediate quilter – many quilters are terrified at the thought of free motion quilting, but a little knowledge and practice will get you a long way. There are also 4 projects that aren’t very difficult and offer the opportunity to practice your free motion skills.

The Complete Machine Quilting Manual by Joanie Zeier Poole is published by Search Press and is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. 

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© J C Excell, 2012

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

(I’m in) Sewing World Magazine ;)

Sewing World Magazine is out now and my quilt is on the cover!!! SQUEAL!!! If you can’t find it in a bookstore/newsagent near you, you can order it from Traplet Publications’s website.

My quilt is a layer cake quilt. I had to scramble to get it done before I went to Texas. To be honest I hadn’t really considered the timing when I asked the editor, Julie, if she’d be interested. Thankfully I managed to finish on time! I am so chuffed they decided to put it on the cover!

Lynne of Lily’s Quilts also has a pattern in this month’s issue – isn’t this table runner wonderful? It’s a jelly roll pattern and I love it! I’m thinking about making it with a non-Xmas jelly roll. So cute!

There’s also a profile of my blog in the magazine. I had forgotten about it completely until one of my students found it! Thanks Nati! :)

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© J C Excell, 2012

Posted in Magazine Features, UK craft blog, UK Modern Quilt Blog, UK quilt blog, UK sewing blog | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Manic Monday Linky Party

So you may have noticed I wasn’t here last week. That’s because I was reading – I averaged nearly 600 pages per day, which as you can imagine doesn’t leave much time for anything else. For some reason, when I read fiction I can’t bear to put it down. I simply MUST know what’s happening next. And it’s no good saying to myself After this chapter is over I’m going to do computer chores. I turn into Procrastination Central!

So I’m going on a fiction diet – the only fiction I’ll allow myself to buy is on audio, since I listen to that while I’m sewing. No more Kindle books for me! I need to get some real work done.

How about you? Do you have trouble doing anything else when you read a good book?

Linky Party Rules:

  • You can link anything you’ve created – an etsy shop, blog or tutorial, recipe or project, whatever.
  • You can leave up to 2 links
  • Please visit at least one other link and comment!
  • I’ll be featuring a few on the blog on Feature Friday
  • You are welcome to add my party button to your blog, but you don’t have to!

If you’d like to receive my blog feed in your Google Reader (or any other reader) just click on the Feedburner (RSS) link below. :)

Subscribe in a reader

© J C Excell, 2012

Posted in craft linky party, Linky Party, Manic Monday, UK craft blog, UK Modern Quilt Blog, UK quilt blog, UK sewing blog | 2 Comments

Friday Feature and Finishes

Our feature this week isn’t a quilt, but it’s been made with great skill and eye for detail:

Kelli of Seriously…I think it needs stitches made this lovely lil donkey using a Ric Rac pattern (designed by Jodie Carleton). Isn’t is superb? Thank you for sharing, Kelli!

And I have a couple of finishes to report:

Another drawstring bag!

Another drawstring bag – this one is the size from Jeni’s tutorial, so you can make one too. I used the eye-catching Modernology range by Pat Bravo, which was provided by Hantex Ltd. If you’re in the UK and want to buy some, there’s a list of Hantex stockists here.  If you’re in the US/Canada and want to buy Pat Bravo fabrics, Fabricworm and Fat Quarter Shop sell them. It’s a really beautiful line – silky and rich in detail and colour.

I also finished this 16″ pillow:

Pillow finish :)

It uses the same block that I used in the Je’taime Le Thames bag (below) that I designed for Fat Quarterly online magazine – the Britannia edition, with my tote bag along with a stunning array of other patterns, is still available to download.

Tomorrow I’m taking a coach trip to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally, and I am SO excited!! I’ll share my goodies next week. What are you up to this weekend?

If you’d like to receive my blog feed in your Google Reader (or any other reader) just click on the Feedburner (RSS) link below. :)

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© J C Excell, 2012

Posted in Feature Friday, Features, Finished Products | Tagged , | 5 Comments