Thursday, January 4, 2018

To England We Will Go!

As a child, I (Kara) lived in England for three years, and since then, I have always loved everything British. My parents bought a VW camper, and we explored the British Isles with enthusiasm. When my husband mentioned that he had to go to the UK for work, I immediately began to look for things to do in that particular area. Of course, my first search was for quilt shops, and I discovered Bee Crafty; a quilt shop just outside of Huntingdon. I navigated easily through their website and much to my delight, found a paper-piecing workshop held on one of the days I could visit. The class was "1000 Pieces Patchwork With Carol"—an ongoing group, as I discovered—most working on a Millefiori quilt, La Passacaglia, by Willyne Hammerstein.  I called the shop, chatted with Polly, and signed up for the class. 

I have always wanted to make one of these quilts and have been lurking on the Facebook groups devoted to La Passacaglia. I even have all the papers and stencils, but because of lack of time, and a little bit of fear, have never started. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to begin. Many of the finished Millefiori quilts that I have seen have utilized a lot of fussy cutting that creates all sorts of interesting designs. While I like that look, I decided to keep my start simple, with no fussy cutting, especially since I would need to bring all my supplies with me on the plane.

My palette to start.

The cab dropped me off about a half hour before the shop opened, but the shop owner, Maddie, and her manager, Polly, graciously let me in. They were chatting with a fabric rep, and I realized quickly that I could never be a quilt shop owner, as I would want to buy ALL the fabric!!

One of everything, please!

Maddie and Polly were amazing hosts and let me wander around the shop before the class; they even made me a cup of tea! Whether it's quilting, embroidery, or knitting, Bee Crafty has just about everything you might need.

Yarn, paper-piecing, and embroidery supplies
Christmas fabrics and more
The class is one that is ongoing as the project is quite large, so many of the ladies have been working on their quilts for a while. Some of the ladies had already moved on to a different quilt from the book. Carol, the instructor, got me started and suggested that I look for a few more fabrics to brighten up my palette. It was a hardship to go shopping for fabric, but somehow I endured the task. 

The store is well lit and I was able to find a few fabrics to enhance my stash for this quilt.

Carol also brought in a paper-pieced Christmas quilt top that she had done. It was amazing! There was so much detail, with something new to look at each time you looked.  It was all ready to be hand-quilted.

I especially liked the fussy-cut snowmen.

A finished Millefiori top was brought in to share; unfortunately, I can't remember the maker's name, but the quilt was stunning and inspiring. I have looked at quite a few, and this one is one of my favorites.

What a beauty! I hope I can finish mine someday.

Everyone brought a bag lunch (mine was created from the hotel breakfast buffet), and we even had tea served to us by the wonderful Maddie and Polly. After lunch, we kept stitching, chatting, and drinking tea. The workspace at Bee Crafty is spacious and so well lit. What's not to love about a class where you are served tea multiple times throughout the day?

Everyone hard at work,
including Carol, our teacher, on the right. 
A charm quilt in the making.

My accomplishment for the day.

I had a fantastic day visiting this shop, not too far from Cambridge, and can't wait for an opportunity to go back. Everyone I met was so kind and welcoming. One of the ladies I sat near, Gillian, even gave me a ride back to the hotel, so I didn't have to take a cab. Perhaps the most welcoming were Maddie, the owner, and her manager, Polly. They were so much fun and so helpful, even while preparing the shop for an open house the next day.

Maddie and Polly

Some of the other ladies gave me a few ideas of places to go the next day, one of which was the Lucy Boston home (Patchwork of the Crosses). Unfortunately, The Manor—Hemmingford Grey—wasn't open for visitors the next day, but I will try to get there on the next visit.  I did have a chance to visit a few antique shops in Huntingdon, and while I found a few gems, I didn't think they would fit in my suitcase.

Oh the things I could store in this lovely case.

Might not fit in the overhead baggage compartment.

What fun I had on this trip to England! I made some new friends, and I started a project that I had been a bit fearful of—all in one day. All the ladies at Bee Crafty prove my theory that quilters are some of the nicest people in the world.


  1. Oh what fun! I will enjoy watching your progress on this amazing project. I have been tempted by this one myself, but each time I sit down until the temptation passes!

    1. It's quite an undertaking and one that I'm sure will be many years in the making!