Kaffe Fassett & Brandon Mably at Black Sheep Wools

Posted by Sara Mulvey | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 03-03-2017

Tags: ,


As I write this blog post the legend that is Kaffe Fassett is sitting in Stephen’s office, listening to Radio 4, working on a needlepoint. How utterly amazing is that!

I remember hearing his name lots when I was a young Saturday girl in our shop in Sale, Manchester. As my own knitting & sewing skills have progressed my admiration of him has only grown. His use of colour is simply breath taking and his philosophy ‘keep learning’ is infectious.

I have been lucky enough to meet Kaffe a couple of times before this week. But nothing prepared me for his visit to Black Sheep Wools. I picked Kaffe and Brandon Mably, his design partner & studio manager, up from Warrington Train Station on Wednesday evening. I was so nervous! I made Matt clean the car (a rare occurrence) and drove so carefully. I had horrors of bumping the car with them both in it.

We made our way to the Craft Barn and their reaction to our beautiful shop was amazing. They both loved it. The fabrics were inspirational and they had never seen a yarn collection like it in the UK. It all boded well for the next day.

Julie and Jayne in their Kaffe Fassett aprons

Kaffe & Brandon ran a patchwork colour workshop on the first day. It was about inspiring people and being confident in your colour choices. Big bold patterns were called for and the designs that the group came up with were breath taking.

In the evening we had booked Kaffe to do a ‘Lecture in Colour’. He talked us through his inspirations and life, both were fascinating. He takes his inspiration from so many different places, a world traveller with an eye for detail. From paint pots to Irish steps, pebbles on the beach, to paint disappearing down a plug hole – wow, wow, wow!

He is a natural orator. I have heard him speak three times now and each time it has been completely different. The round of applause was loud & long, I think we have all been inspired. The talk in the shop today has been of colour and creativity. I want to go home this weekend and make! Just the cleaning & the ironing to do first!

If you need some inspiration take a look at his books and fabrics on our site, I will be thumbing through ‘Quilts in Italy’ tonight if you need me!

Designer Q & A’s – Joanne Ridley

Posted by Amy | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 14-04-2016


This spring / summer we have a new workshop tutor coming to teach at the Craft Barn. Joanne Ridley is a talented patchwork and quilter who is so enthusiastic about her craft. We cannot wait to have Joanne here to teach all of the fabulous projects she has planned. As Joanne says below, ‘they are all beginner friendly’, so if you are thinking of taking a dip into the fabric world, why not add Joanne’s workshops to your to do list? There are 3 workshops coming up – Applique Cushion with Clever Concealed Zip in April, Foundation Pieced Tote Bag in June and Star Table Runner Patchwork in July. All workshops include fabrics, notions and a delicious finger buffet lunch – with a scrumptious tea and cake break in the afternoon.




I sent Joanne a few questions to find out some more about her love of patchwork and what she likes to make. Take a look below at her answers, accompanied by a selection of photos of her work.

How long have you been sewing and doing patchwork?

I come from a long line of makers so I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t do some sort of creative activity. I learnt to crochet when I was really little, knitting came a bit later (and less naturally!) and throughout High School, University and the early years of married life I did lots of embroidery. When my son was a toddler (he’s eighteen now) I went on a ‘Creativity Day’ where you could either paint or do patchwork – I really, really can’t paint so I went for the patchwork option (we made a Cathedral Windows pincushion) and I was hooked straight away. The lady who was showing us what to do was so evangelical about her hobby that it made me want to find out more. I came home and bought a patchwork magazine, saw an advert for a local exhibition, went along and found a patchwork group, was recommended a good teacher to do a sampler quilt class, and everything mushroomed from there. I eventually bought a longarm quilting machine and started a quilting business which has ranged from making banners for schools, churches and Walking Days, to quilting other patchworkers’ quilts, to running workshops. Now that I have a full-time job my business is mainly concentrated on workshops and I don’t have time to quilt for other people anymore but it was a really good grounding for being brave and going outside your own comfort zone.

How long have you been teaching the craft?

I started a little group at home about seven years ago called Stitch and Chat. We met once a month and each night was basically a little make-and-take workshop. We did all sorts of crafts, not just patchwork, but some of the ladies who come along started to ask about making a quilt themselves, so we began to have Saturday workshops every so often. Over several years now we’ve had all sorts of workshops and it’s lovely to see people’s reactions when they ‘get’ a technique, or hold up a finished article and announce, “I did it!” This is me (on the end in the white blouse) and a little group of ladies after a cushion workshop – see, lots of smiles!


What skill set is required for each of your workshops?

The workshops I’m leading at Black Sheep are all beginner-friendly. You don’t need any specialist knowledge: you just need to want to have a go and I guarantee that you’ll leave at the end of the day with an item you’re really pleased with and a big pile of new skills under your belt. The important thing to remember is that there are no quilt rules, just guidelines – I’ll show you how to do it, but if you wobble off, or find another way, or yours looks a bit different – no one will ever know! Patchwork is great fun and one of the main aims of the workshop is to try something new and discover whether there’s a whole new craft here you could be taking up!

What is your favourite patchwork technique / design? 

Oh – too many to mention! I still haven’t exhausted all the things I want to try and the list of quilts I’m going to make some day keeps on growing! The two things that keep me most engaged though are the quilting and the challenge of design. I love how the quilting transforms a patchwork top into a quilt: here’s a band of patchwork:


and here it is with freehand leafy feathers quilted onto it:


Both pictures really appeal to me (see below for my answer about which colour palette I like (!) but I think the quilted version has an extra zing to it.

Making banners for clients with very precise requirements has meant I’ve had to be quite inventive at times. Several school banners have necessitated the making of interesting elements, and on several occasions the creation of quilted children (So I got to walk out of work one evening saying, “I’m just going home to make a child” which raised the odd eyebrow…) and the pictures below show a couple of the stages – I like that I had to find ways to interpret the requested designs into reality.



Do you have a favourite colour palette you are always drawn to?

Its rainbow all the way I’m afraid: the more colours that are in there the better, and there’s just something about a lovely ordered span of colours that makes my heart pop. The rainbow banners show that I think, and I also love the colours in this picture of a stole I made for my husband one Easter.


What project (s) do you have on the go at the moment? 

Well, I’m working on something for Black Sheep but I think it might be a secret…


You’ll have to come back to me about that.

Recently we made owl blocks at a workshop which was really good fun – curved seams turn out not to be scary at all, and the owls are so cutie!


The last quilt all for us that I finished was a ‘dresden plate’ design:


I don’t only quilt though: I crochet a lot too, and because we were doing scarves and cowls at the last Stitch and Chat night, I’ve done a couple of them in the last few weeks:


(I know that it looks like knitting but actually it really is crochet: half trebles done into the ‘third loop’ at the back of the stitch – those ‘V’s that look like a rib are the tops of all the stitches being pushed over towards you as you spiral round and round.)

There’s always a bigger project on the go as well, isn’t there, and at the moment mine is with wool from a Black Sheep kit I bought from Sara at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate – it was supposed to be a granny stripe blanket but we have rather an embarrassment of blankets so I am doing a slightly different stitch and making an enormous shawl instead.


Where do you find inspiration for your projects?

All over the place really! I’ve got lots of magazines and books to browse through, and of course the internet has such a wealth of images and ideas that it can be overwhelming. I’m a bit stubborn about doing something that’s been done before though, so I usually start out with one idea and finish with a rather different end product. I do love Pinterest for mooching but I think there’s a danger that you’ll spend an hour staring at your screen when you could have been using that time to actually sew something yourself 🙂 Gazing at my fabric stash is always a good kick-start if I’m feeling a bit aimless, or looking at objects around me or other crafts I’m doing – and (as if all the crochet didn’t do the trick) just to prove that I’m not a one-craft devotee, here’s a little embroidery I did : there’s a link in it to one of the other pictures in this article – can you find it?


Log Cabin Patchwork

Posted by Amy | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 04-03-2016

Tags: , ,


Barbara loves to do patchwork and always has a new idea up her sleeve. When new fabrics arrive she is already lining bolts of fabric side by side, piecing together a quilt idea in her head. I guess this is inevitable when you put crafty, creative folk in a room full of inspirational materials; the crafty mind goes into overdrive. Barbara couldn’t resist the new Riley Blake ‘Fancy & Fabulous’ range – a mix of bold florals, ditsy prints and confetti spots, all designed in a soothing mint themed colourway.

Along with her chosen printed fabrics, Barbara opted to use a contrast plain white fabric to make a modern log cabin patchwork block. Barbara thoughtfully mapped out the placement of the fabrics to create a good balance with the prints. Once sewn up the block measures approximately 15½” x 15½” and would make a beautiful cushion cover. However, Barbara had bigger plans in mind for a twelve block quilt.

log cabin patchwork

With four blocks made up Barbara showed the versatility of this simple log cabin design, trying out different ways the blocks can be arranged. Taking photos as you go along is a handy tip when making / arranging quilt blocks. It helps you to get a different perspective on the quilt design whilst it is in progress and will hopefully avoid any major un-picking sessions.

log cabin patchwork

log cabin patchwork

log cabin patchwork

log cabin patchwork

log cabin patchwork

The possibilities seemed infinite, but I think after lots of twisting and turning Barbara finally reached her limit. It is amazing how these subtle changes could make such a difference to the final quilt.

Barbara chose her final arrangement and went on to make 8 more blocks and sewed them together to make the quilt top. Here she is holding it up for a quick photo.

log cabin patchwork

Ta da!!! A finished log cabin patchwork quilt complete with backing.


Please ignore the poor ironing skills on the reverse, this was my fault as the quilt had been folded in the shop and needed an iron before photography. I think my ironing skills may need improving.


If you like the look of the log cabin patchwork block and fancy having a go yourself, why not book on Barbara’s log cabin patchwork workshop. A morning workshop where Barbara will teach how to make the log cabin block, with all materials included.

A Patchwork Summer Shawl

Posted by Amy | Posted in Free Patterns, Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 24-08-2015



Back in June we held our very first ‘Sewing Bee‘ at the Craft Barn. A group of bloggers and Black Sheep Barbara took part. The brief was to make an item in the day based around the theme of patchwork. The results were fabulous and so varied too. Each and every project was so different – there were bags, boxes, a cushion and Barbara’s elegant shawl. Barbara has now written the pattern out so that it is available as a free pattern to download from our website. Many of the other designs, including Jozart’s winning windmill bag are also there for you to download.

Sewing bee projects

Here is Barbara’s gorgeous shawl made using a combination of juicy fabrics – Philip Jacobs Pansies, Kaffe Fassett Millefore and Valori Wells Voile.

patchwork summer shawl

Stuart Hillard Evening

Posted by Amy | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 24-07-2015



A couple of weeks back we had the wonderful Stuart Hillard here at the Craft Barn for two full day workshops and an evening lecture – we really did keep him busy! It is lovely to see the passion and enthusiasm Stuart has for his craft. This enthusiasm is reflected in his magnificent quilts and patchwork designs.

On the evening everyone enjoyed a glass of bubbly and canapés whilst perusing the Craft Barn, before gathering in the fabric room and settling down to listening to Stuart and witness his phenomenal designs. Take a look below at some of Stuart’s quilts he brought along to share. He really doesn’t do things by halves, those quilts are enormous!

stuart hillard evening

stuart hillard quilt

stuart hillard quilt

stuart hillard quilt

stuart hillard

stuart hillard quilt

stuart hillard quilt

stuart hillard wall hanging

stuart hillard quilt

stuart hillard quilt

Sewing Bee Winner!

Posted by Amy | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 09-07-2015


The votes were counted across all social media and the winner is………….Jo from Jozart, with her brightly coloured windmill bag. There was some lovely feedback about all entries, Jo’s included. One comment read – ‘Gorgeous happy bag’. I think this sums up Jo’s design perfectly. The combination of plain and patterned, vibrant fabrics create an abundance of colour all brought together in one patchwork bag.

Jo has kindly put the pattern down on paper for us. Keep an eye out for the pattern popping up on our free patterns page in the next couple of weeks. It will be one to add to your to do list. The only thing is you won’t know where to begin when choosing your fabrics!

jo jozart windmill bag

jo jozart sewing bee

jo jozart windmill bag

jo jozart sewing bee winner

Sewing Bee – Choose Your Winner!

Posted by Amy | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 23-06-2015



We would like your help in choosing a winner for our Sewing Bee. All of the designs are so lovely it would be unfair to just leave it up to us to decide. Everyone followed the brief – designed and made a patchwork based item on the day. The great part of all, everyone put their own spin on it and created an individual piece. Voting will be taking place across three social media platforms – Facebook (like the image), Pinterest (re-pin or favourite) and Instagram (like). Here on the blog is the place to find more images of the finished Sewing Bee projects.

Ali from Very Berry Handmade

Made a patchwork tote bag

ali veryberryhandmade tote

Very Berry Handmade blog

ali veryberryhandmade tote

Jo from Jozart

Made a patchwork windmill bag

jo jozart windmill bag

Jozart blog


Diane from The Cheshire Quilter

Made a group of patchwork containers

diane cheshire quilter containers

The Cheshire Quilter blog


diane cheshire quilter

Lucy from Charm About You

Made an applique cushion cover

lucy charm about you

Charm About You blog

lucy charm about you

charm about you

Rachel from Mamma Fairy Sews

Made a hobby bag with lots of pockets

rachel mamma fairy sews

Mamma Fairy Sews blog

rachel mamma fairy sews



Barbara from Black Sheep Wools

Made a summer shawl with crocheted edge

summer shawl

summer shawl


The winner will be announced on Monday 29th June 2015!

Sewing Bee at the Craft Barn

Posted by Amy | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 19-06-2015

Tags: , ,


Last Wednesday we held our very first Black Sheep Sewing Bee here at the Craft Barn. We invited 5 bloggers to take part and our very own Barbara. Barbara is a team leader in the Craft Barn and is our go to lady for all things patchwork. She has some fantastic pieces of work including these shown below.



Everyone was given a brief to make a patchwork based design within the day. It was interesting to see each person’s fabric choices and what they would turn into over the course of the day. As Barbara took part in the Sewing Bee herself she has written all about her day below.

Early next week we will be sharing each of the six final designs here on the blog and on Facebook for you to vote for your favourite.

Over to Barbara…………

“I spent the day with 5 lovely ladies at our first Black Sheep Sewing Bee. After introductions and tea we all set off making our patchwork creations.

Ali from Verry Berry Handmade made a colourful bag using Denyse Schmidt fabrics.

very berry handmade patchwork

Jo from Jozart made a windmill bag.

Jo from Jozart blog sewing a windmill patchwork bag

Diane from The Cheshire Quilter made containers with pockets.

diane patchwork container

Lucy from Charm About You made an applique cushion cover.

lucy charm about you applique cushion cover

Rachel from Mamma Fairy Sews made a hobby bag using Dena Designs Little Azalea fabrics.


I decided to make a summer shawl using ‘Millefiore’ and shot cotton by Kaffe Fasett with a splash of Philip Jacobs’ pansies. I used the foundation piecing technique for my project for the base fabric. I chose ‘Wish’ by Valorie Wells which is a really pretty light voile.



It was amazing to see everybody working – they definitely know their stuff. The speed at which they worked was amazing, how everybody finished their projects in a day, I’ll never know. I finished mine at home by sewing a blanket stitch edge with a crochet border, adding long fringing to each end to complete. For the fringing I used Rico Crochet Cotton in turquoise, the colour brought everything together beautifully.

barbara_work_in progress

We had a fantastic day and everyone was impressed by our brilliant Pfaff machines with the built in walking foot, a huge thumbs up for quilting.


Rachel attached this handy pin cushion to her sewing machine. There is a free pattern over on her blog.



Thanks to all the ladies for joining us, we really had a great time, plenty of chat, tea and sewing. What more could anyone want……….Well, there was a little surprise treat. As things were wrapping up and fabric scraps were being tidied away, we were each presented with an amazing goody bag kindly donated by Coats Crafts, the perfect end to an enjoyable day.”

Barbara x


Basics of Patchwork

Posted by Amy | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 08-06-2015

Tags: , ,


To make life a little easier for anyone embarking on a patchwork project we have brought together our five must have accessories. Each item has an important part to play in the basics of patchwork. This is before you even think about beautiful, printed cotton fabrics and the endless quilts you will make (well you can always have a teeny peak, can’t you?). It is a good idea to understand these tools and why they are so useful.

Rotary Cutter

A rotary cutter is a fantastic piece of equipment for any patchworker or quilter, as accuracy is key when cutting out patchwork pieces. When using a rotary cutter you can always get a neat edge and easily cut a curved shape every time. When your blade is getting blunt, fear not we also sell replacement blades. The rotary cutters come in various sizes – 28mm, 45mm and 60mm. The smaller sizes are ideal for cutting intricate shapes.

Milward rotary cutter basics of patchwork

Cutting Mat

Using a rotary cutter you will also need its best friend – a cutting mat. These accessories are like two peas in a pod, a team of the patchwork world. We would definitely advise using a cutting mat rather than having to explain the damage a lone rotary cutter could do to your table, it doesn’t bare thinking about, eeeek! The best part of all the Milward cutting mats are self-healing, any dents will bounce back. Obviously any excessive pressure and the mat will not self-heal back to its original state.


cutting mat basics of patchwork


Patchwork Ruler

A patchwork ruler with inch increments is the next item to add to your basics of patchwork shopping list. Use this handy ruler to accurately cut strips of fabric to just the length and width you need. It is super helpful that the ruler is clear too. Your fabric is easily visible when lining up where to cut. There are also 45° angles marked on to help when cutting triangles and various other patchwork shapes.

patchwork ruler

 Quilter Seamer 8″

If you haven’t guessed already, patchwork does involve quite a bit of measuring and accuracy is essential to the overall finish of a piece of work. This nifty little item may just look like a clear cuboid. It’s not; it is actually a quilter’s quarter inch seamer, designed to help out when adding your quarter inch seam allowance to paper and fabric pieces. It is exactly a quarter inch wide!

quilters seamer

505 Temporary Fabric Adhesive

Any quilter would recommend this little treat. A bottle of 505 temporary adhesive spray is so good to have to hand when arranging your fabric pieces ready for sewing. The spray leaves no residue, saves on pinning work then having to re-adjust and can fabric pieces can be repositioned for up to 20 minutes after the initial spray. It also works well for applique – but we will save that for another day.

505 adheshive basics of patchwork

There you have it our top five accessories for the basics of patchwork. Now it’s time to choose your fabrics…………