Perfect curves….well as perfect as I get anything!


I love curves in quilting. And I love improv quilting so combine the two and it’s all good as far as I’m conccerned. I’ve been playing with curves again and this time took photos of the process so you can have a go.

The original plan was to make something and show how I’d done the curves but when I came to do a curved picture using this fabulous fabric from the Catnip range by Gingiber.


…it got a bit tricksy as the cat picture wasn’t big enough for the curved window so I had to add bits so it became a bit more complicated. I’m afraid other cats in the panel had to be sacrificed to get the same coloured fabric to extend the original!! It just seemed sensible to plough on with this picture and use completely different fabrics for the demo.


I chose 3 shades of solid blue hoping for a 3D effect. Not sure that’s worked out frankly but if you squint your eyes and see it from a distance there’s maybe a hint…

149C3F80-B381-4ACD-98DF-DB3FA01CE42C I used a template to try to get the shape itself  more accurate than last week’s wonky ones. Partly successful on that one.


I was going for a flat look so very minimally quilted round the window and put extra batting under it so the cat picture slightly stands out. It was then just a case of stapling the finished curved picture to a standard art canvas block.

Its supposed to look like Skye our lilac pointed Tonkinese. She’s pointed in her colouring but not so distinct as the picture but it will do for me.


Anyway back to how to do those pieced curves using freezer paper  Firstly and foremostly let me attribute this bit of magic.  Following an IG Post from Hillary Goodwin, Entropy Always Wins  blog she posed the question of who came up with the inset circle technique using freezer paper. That honour goes to Dale Fleming who came up with the technique some years ago.

I understand that Dale has done a YouTube video explaining the technique, I’m sure our mutual friend Google will get you there ….This variation is just an extension of that technique to get an inset curved shape instead of a circle

Imagine you want to sew these shapes together….


You can use raw edge applique, needle turned appliqué or machined appliqué but if appliqué is not your thing and you like the flat look of piecing then you can piece it this way…

take your fabric


Now determine which fabric will have the concave shape.

If we are reproducing the design in the photo above then the blue is the concave shape. Place a piece of freezer paper, sticky/shiny side up under the fabric and cut your curve. Remember that the critical bit of freezer paper is that to the left of your concave curve so make sure that there is at least 2”/ 3” to the left. The fabric and freezer paper to the right are scrap


Now iron the freezer paper to the wrong side of the blue fabric but about 1/2” from th edge.


Make short cuts but stopping about 1/8” before you get to the freezer paper


Now glue these tabs to the freezer paper all along the curve. I use a glue stick but you can use spray starch but I found the dampness distorted the curve of the freezer paper


Once glued down place the blue curved piece right side up on your other fabric and glue in place.


Now if there’s a tricky bit this is it. Turn the whole thing over and unpeel the freezer paper where you ironed it to the fabric. But don’t peel the freezer paper from where you stuck down the tabs.  You need to have the two pieces of fabric that will make the finished block on the left hand side and everything else including the freezer paper when peeled back to the right


Place under the needle…

5FCFF0B1-DB5D-4626-A300-F4D57289FEBFAnd then sew along the curve slowly. The more pronounced and small the curve then reduce your stitch length to say 1.5.

BE15C1AA-E474-4950-9E88-B4CCC099C17FOnce you’ve sewn the entire length of the curve pull off the freezer paper completely

F7D30E25-E3E5-4AEF-A009-78CDD26849ECTrim the seam allowance and then press the curve.  I sewed on an outer straight strip to replicate the original design. And voila

24115D51-1975-4F99-99A7-BCD00999993AIf you like coming up with your own designs this is such a great technique to have up your sleeve.

Linking up with  Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts

A literal learning curve


As usual I cast an eye over this week’s Project Quilting challenge, by Kim of Persimmon Dreams.  The challenge is to make a quilt in a week starting from scratch and this week’s theme was a stitch in time. Frankly nothing sprang to mind so I settled down to cleaning up my sewing room after a too long gap from the time before. In its awfulness here it is….


As always my scraps were taking over, particularly the blues. With the Bee quilts I make for Siblings Together I typically go for gender neutral colours like blues/greens and often use a blue quilt backing so I have a disproportionate amount  of blue strings of varying widths. Things had got out of hand and it struck me that it would be a stitch in time to use up these scraps before I needed to find another scrap storage system. Yes I agree a bit of a tortuous link to the theme but there it is!


But how to use them? I had been much inspired by the quilts at QuiltCon, the recently held modern quilt show and the showcase of the Modern Quilt Guild.  The quilts displayed push the boundaries and there’s fierce competition to get a quilt entered. There is always much angst when the rejection/selection slips come out in November. Although rejected entries should take comfort for one of the winners this year got rejected last year!

Anyway I wanted to try out an idea on a small scale before trying it on a larger scale. So let play time begin.

The best bit was digging out all these scraps….


and then combining them to make a scrap block like this.


When I say scrap I don’t mean the useful sizeable  off-cuts from a fat quarter but those awkward small sized pieces or strings. This was such fun. You are playing with scrap fabric so if it goes pear shaped it’s bonus fabric to start with. As long as you pair vaguely contrasting tones and values you can’t really go wrong. And it uses a huge amount of scrap.

Then to the design. There’s always a stand out quilt for me at QuiltCon and this year it was the raffle quilt. It was made by Hillary Goodwin a seriously talented quilter who always has a fresh take on quilting. She uses lots of inset circles and it was Hillary’s quilts which inspired me to make  this quilt for the Festival of Quilts last year.

Well she has taken inset circles to a new level with this quilt. I loved the way there was a pattern behind the circles. You can see it here on Cathy’s excellent blog post which features that particular quilt (it hasn’t yet made it into Hillary’s blog) and a very interesting first hand account of QuiltCon this year. One day I will go…

For this mini I  wanted to use the same type of cut out revealing a pattern beneath. Curved but not circles. So I decided on this shape.


A sort of cathedral window shape. But the fact that it had points meant that the inset circle technique wouldn’t work and each curve had to be pieced separately. Which made for a wonky first try until I came up with a template. I also had to think through how to combine the curved pieces to make a whole quilt.

Most quilts are made from squares which are then sewn together like my FoQ quilt  but this would be different. After some thinking I approached it like a foundation paper pieced  design where you separate out the main joins. Once I did that this became my guide. 8BDFD252-74BB-4DDC-8D05-0D1F97539A59

You can see I’ve separated it into 3 sections, A, B and C and worked on B first. For this I used freezer paper, as you would with inset circles. But working on a convex curve as opposed to a concave was much harder. As I muttered away on these curves my daughter said it seemed so stressful why did I do it? I told her I was pushing myself and it was a challenge. She didn’t seem convinced. As you see the resulting ‘block’ had its issues.


Yes a nasty pucker. But this was playtime so I pressed on with the next section. This time I abandoned the freezer paper and went with improv curves. This is just where you lay your two pieces of fabric down and cut a curve through both layers and then sew them together. But the problem with this approach is it will never, unless it’s a very shallow curve, lie flat. Geometry dictates this  because to lie flat when sewn together the two cut curves need to have different radii. If you look at two drunkard path pieces they don’t have the same curve. They do have the same curve 1/4” in from the curved cut but not the edges themselves. So these curved seams looked like this, again not great.


So for the third section I went back to freezer paper because it had dawned on me that of course concave one way is convex the other. This occurred to me during my Pilates session when I probably should have been concentrating on my breathing! (But to be fair I never do, it’s just a question of surviving the session) Then all was joy and ease, OK a bit fiddly because of the size of the curves, but flat curves were back in vogue.

To see the stark difference between an improv curve and using freezer paper look at these two pictures. The top picture is the joining seam between two sections, the first just by the improv curve technique (I’d used pins and carefully matched the curved pieces) and the second using freezer paper. No contest!!


After I’d found out the hard way what worked and didn’t work I revisited some of the curved seams to make the most obvious faults go away. That pucker went for a start.

If you are new to doing curves using freezer paper then I had thought about  including a short ‘how to’ but this post is already long so I will do that next time. In the meantime if you can’t wait this approach it is simply a step on from the famous and very wonderful 6 minute inset circle technique found in this post which includes a link to the tutorial.

As to quilting I decided on a simple hatch so the focus was still on the motif. I chose a variegated thread, not sure I like the effect if I’m honest but if you don’t try…..


All in all I’m pleased with this mini quilt and I learnt loads which of course was the purpose. The true irony of this quilt is firstly my room is in an even more devastated  state and secondly my blue scrap drawer is only marginally reduced because this design makes a lot of scrap…. there is something circular about all this quilting lark!

Post Script

As this blog is where I record what I’ve done and learning points, below is a list of pointers so I don’t forget. Having re read them it sounds a mixture of part rant and part dictatorship!! But don’t forget it’s to remind me what to do for the larger quilt but you’re welcome to use it if you want to have a go at these freezer paper curves.

1. Use freezer paper, forget improv curves unless the block is small and the curves are shallow

2. Devise a plan for the design, where the cathedral window motifs will be and crucially the joining seams. As a general rule you need to do the opposite sides of the motif then the two other sides. Make copies. You lost the paper with the design on it under mounds of fabric about every 5 mins….

3. When doing the design decide whether to have precise motif shapes or go with a more improv look. Precise is difficult but you could perhaps mark the motif shape on the fabric and glue curves accordingly. I quite like the mix of precise and  wonky.  The children thought the wonky just looked wrong! I think I’d try for a bigger motif not smaller.

3. Get plenty of the fabric you want for your background. It eats fabric…. And fabric, even the same solid by name/brand, can vary by bolt.

4. When prepping your curves remember its the motif, because of its concave curves,  that needs to be snipped and attached to the freezer  paper and then glued to the background fabric.


5) The trickiest freezer paper cuts are the ones that not only include the curve of the template but extend beyond that curve. Here you need to cut the curve you need with the freezer paper sticky side up, positioned under the fabric which should be facing rightside up and then using the template or free hand cut the fabric and freezer paper. Then iron the freezer paper about 1/2” away from wrong side of the fabric and then after snipping glue down the tabs to make the curved piece. This gets glued down and sewn as usual onto the background fabric

6) When sewing you need to position it so the freezer paper, having been peeled back, is to the right of the needle and the two pieces being sewn together are to the left of the needle. The curve should be concave. If in doubt sew a small section and check.


7) As to general points I didn’t double up the batting which I do for minis, it was a test piece after all, but it does lose a certain sense of quality and substance when it’s thin. Continue to use double thickness

8) In respect of quilting I think I still prefer random verticals lines but possibly the double thickness works well here in respect of texture. I’m so tempted to quilt out orange peels in that grid!

9) Random idea. I preferred the look of the quilt top after I’d stitched in the ditch round the motif but before the all over quilting. I wonder whether a smaller mini backed onto canvas board would work well.

linking up with Amanda Jean, Crazy Mom Quilts and Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation.

Tote bag tutorial



I’ve made quite a few tote bags recently using my favourite leather handles and a number of people have asked if there is a tutorial or pattern for these bags.  I’ve always said they are a mash up of a variety of ideas I have got from the numerous patterns of pouches and bags I’ve made over the last couple of years. But with the need to make another totebag to replace one I gifted at Christmas I thought it would be a good idea to capture what I did if only for myself when I want to make more of what has proved for me at least a practical shopping bag that can be sized up and down as needed.

When it was finished I couldn’t resist a snow shot, you can see the snow is falling.  In the U.K., much to my children’s delight, we’ve had more snow than normal. This shot was taken when the Beast from the East, a particularly cold weather system from Siberia, met Storm Emma coming up from the west.


The reason I’m making another is that one of these bags in the next picture was gifted to a dear friend who unfortunately had a burglary when she was away for the weekend. The thieves made off with it presumably filled with loot.  As it’s a pretty unique bag  a picture has been sent to the police just in case they find it at a ‘house of interest’. Wouldn’t that be good.


Burglaries are a sad fact of life.  We’ve had a couple one where my husband left the patio door wide open. He had a fun time with the insurers! But the first one was when we’d just bought our current home 25+ years ago.

I guess we’ve all been the enthusiastic young buyers of houses ‘with potential’. This house certainly had potential for vastly improved security and a couple of months in they easily forced what masqueraded as a back door. My husband discovered the theft on returning from work and rang me. When I got home the police asked me to check our bedroom for missing items as the room had been ransacked. After a quick look I had to admit that it was just as we’d left it that morning! I take comfort from this story when I see the rooms of my sons and hope one day they will see the need for order.


Anyway this is what you will need to make the bag above

Home dec* weight fabric for outer panels.  If you are using directional fabric 2 x 17” square pieces (I’ve used 2 pieces per panel as I didn’t have enough for one but I quite like the two tone look).  If you are using non directional fabric then 1 x 34” by 17” piece. Again you can make this two tone and have a middle section of one fabric and the two equal outer pieces of another fabric. See the picture under K).

Quilting cotton for bag lining panels  2 x 17” squares if no internal zip pocket wanted or 1 x 17” square and 1 x 19” squares if you want to include an  internal zip pocket

Headliner fabric* which is 2mm thin foam, I buy mine on EBay. 2 x 16” squares

If choosing to include internal zip pocket 2 x 10” quilting cotton squares for pocket linings and min 12” zip

For handles thin 1” by 2mm depth leather straps or webbing

* I prefer my bags to have a bit of body so using both home dec and headliner undoubtedly achieves that. If you want a less structured bag then interfaced quilting cotton or linen would be Ok and instead of headliner use the stiffest of fusible fee  you have


A) Cut fabrics incuding headliner.

If you are not going to have an internal zip pocket  go straight to K)

B) Cut larger lining fabric 19” square as follows. This is where the internal zip pocket will go


The top strip should be 3.5”  inches from the top, the bottom 5.5” from the bottom. Then cut 4.5” from either side leaving a 10” square as the middle piece.

D) Lay one of the pocket lining pieces right side up and the right way up if it’s a directional fabric like mine. Lay zip right side up with pull on the right along the top edge of the pocket lining, you can just see the lining  poking out on the left


Now lay on top, right side down, the middle 10” by 10” square of the larger lining square


Sew along the top using a zipper foot using 1/4” seam.


Now fold back both lining and pocket lining and press. Top stitch about 1/8th” from seam.

E) Now place second pocket lining piece right side up and correct way up. Lay zip unit you’ve just made in D above on top, right side up. Using zipper foot sew 1/8th” from top.


F) Move the zip pull to the centre and now trim the zip unit so it is approx 10” by 10”. Take care not to pull the zipper as it is no longer secured by the zipper stops.


H) Now attach side lining pieces using 1/2” seam. Trim so it is now 17” wide.


I) Attach the top and bottom pieces of the lining with 1/4” seam at the top (because of the zip) and 1/2” seam along the bottom. Remember that the top piece is slimmer than the bottom piece.



J) Trim the whole unit to 17” square. This is what it will look like on the reverse side .


K) Now to assemble the bag.

Layout the pieces as in the picture. For the purpose of seeing what I’ve  done I’ve laid them rightside up but of course when you come to sew them you need to join rightside to rightside. You will end up with a long strip.

If you’ve got non directional fabric and got one large outer fabric piece then just slot it in between the two lining pieces – see picture.


L) now fold in half right sides together. Sew all three sides using a 1/2” seam leaving a 10” gap at the bottom of the lining pieces.

80FAB7E2-A6AB-45B6-8737-29E48A64B979M) cut out from each corner a 2” square. Squeeze the sides together and sew 1/2” seam to join the sides together. To strengthen this I sew this seam twice securing each end.  By doing this you’ve boxed the corners.


N) Now birth your bag through the gap at the lining piece seam making sure to push out your corners and pushing the lining into the bag



Carefully press the top edge of the bag then do a top stitch round the top of the bag to finish it off neatly.


O) Your bag should look something like this and is ready for the handles.


For handles either use webbing or make fabric handles or use leather like me. I  sew the leather about 1 1/2” down and 3.5” in from the side. To get the right size for your height/body test out other bags you own to get a length that suits you.

Now my machine doesn’t like this thickness and even with a leather needle it isn’t very neat so I use a rivet to distract. I’ve covered riveting in a separate post here.

You now have one sturdy shopping bag.


F44947A8-6B8A-41DE-B111-F45CAF9A0FD4 This size passes the loaf of bread test. But of course you can size up or down as you like. I find a square panel makes a sufficiently wide top for easy loading  and unloading. A slightly oblong shape also works well. As to handles my friend wanted one that easily went over the shoulder so this one has extra long handles.

I also wanted to see how long it would take to make a simpler bag with just one outer fabric piece and no internal zip. Well discounting time to make and eat lunch, risk a trip up to the shops etc it took less than 40 mins. It’s not my favourite bag but it was the only home dec I had to hand. And I prefer a coloured base but this time I allowed the lining to fold over slightly so it looks as if it is bound. At least it’s way more attractive than my usual bright orange plastic canvas type shopping bags.



Siblings Together – The Thread House Retreat Bee February block



I’m always on the look out for suitable quilts for Siblings Together. Something reasonably straightforward, colourful and preferably using scraps. I came across a quilt which was made for the charity Do. Good. Stitches. If I were cleverer I’d link it but it’s on Flickr and we’ve always had an uneasy relationship…. And then as if to confirm my choice a very similar quilt appeared on the ModaBakingShop.

Both are made up of house blocks but with good use of negative space and different values. The mama for the flickr quilt was The Hoffmeister and I can’t find him or her anywhere! And the designer of the other quilt was Debbie from Esche House. I have at least two of her designs and have yet to make up either. Anyway inspired by these designers  this is our quilt block for February.

Now I’d like each Bee member please to make one 4 by 3 block as the above picture made up of a number of houses and 1 or 2 white squares. If you are keen feel free to make more extra single houses which would mean I could add a row.

To make this block the trick is getting a good range of fabric values. They give depth I think.  So when choosing your fabric/scraps can I suggest that you lump them into low value, medium value and dark value  as I’ve done below. Go for a good mix of colours as well as value



Doing a quick picture edit and making the picture black and white will help as well.

From your three piles choose 2 or 3 low value fabrics, 3 or 4 from each of the medium and dark value piles and then depending how many you’ve selected from these piles then 1 or 2 plain bright white. You need to have 12 squares including the white.  That should mix it up nicely and give the block good variety.

So to the houses.

Cut out 5.5” squares  of all your chosen fabrics including the white.  You should have 12 squares. Set aside the white one(s).

For each coloured square you need a 3.5” by 4.5” white rectangle cut in two for the roof. This should be from the same bright white solid you are using for the 1 or 2 white squares.


Now either finger press or mark with an erasable  marker pen  the mid point on the top of your square and 1/4” either side.

B014E747-8588-4BC7-9728-406080E8D4AAPlace your white triangle as in the picture below with the shortest side of the white triangle at the bottom. The top being at the 1/4”mark and the bottom corner 2” down one side. Feel free to eye ball this rather than mark. I placed the coloured square and white triangle on my cutting mat as you can see so measuring the 2” was easy. See below


Now sew the white triangle corner to corner using a scant 1/4” seam so that you can then flip back the white triangle to make half the roof.


Trim corner off and trim block. Now mark the centre again and 1/4”mark from right of centre (or eyeball it). In the picture below you can see how to place the second white triangle. Again 2” down from the top on the left hand side  with the top corner just at the 1/4” mark.



Sew corner to corner and flip and press white triangles to make roof. Cut off surplus  fabric from behind


Trim back the white so that the square is 5.5” and you’ve got one house. And yes that left hand roof looks as it’s sloping more than the other but a quick check will see it’s an optical illusion because you can see the whole seam



Then once you have all your houses put them into a 4 by 3 block as the picture below mixing in the white plain squares and all the houses in any way pleasing to you.


The finished block should be 20.5” by  15.5”. Mine was wildly out because I made this block when I was getting used to a new machine…… This beautiful Singer Featherweight  66 years young . But I need to master an accurate seam. But the beauty of this block it is easy to trim to size.

2222DB6B-996B-4443-97D7-2A371CBE2611Hope that’s clear but any problems do get back to me.

Medallion quilt

D63962AE-5D55-4AB0-A84C-6B57C8A998F8Maths is not a popular subject in my house. None of my children enjoy it and maths teaching is very variable to put it mildly. We were ecstatic if not surprised when no. 1 son passed his maths GCSE but the twins are still going through the grind of learning what they need to to get this qualification . The most common complaint is they can never imagine an occasion in their future when they are going to need to use geometry, solving simultaneous equations, trigonometry  etc etc.  Well I can now say that in the highly unlikely circumstance of them having to design a medallion quilt then their maths could eventually be of use to them.

I had four blocks too many left over  from this quilt of Siblings Together Bee 4. (For more on this wonderful charity see the tab above).

17A6357B-E6B3-4001-AE3A-5360F9BF19F8 I picked out blue and green ones and they became the centre of a medallion quilt. It struck me that rather than randomly make blocks for the next layer I needed to think about size and dimension and make to order.

Out came the graph paper and pencil and on the basis that the centre measured 24” by 24” I decided if the blocks were either 3” or multiples of 3” then I couldn’t go wrong. Well that was an ambitious thought but with much reworking and playing with sizes I got to a workable design. Of course the complication is the significant difference between the size you have to cut versus the finished size  allowing for seams.


It was a fun make.  Some pleasant mindless sewing of flying geese and then the plus block.  Assembling it was a bit more nerve wracking seeing whether my maths worked or more correctly whether the assembled pieces were precisely pieced to make the required length.  Well with a bit of tugging we got there. So thanks to the ladies of ST Bee 4 for their patience in using their blocks and special thanks to a Helen @themagpiecat who kindly offered to make two corner units,  it got done.


I decided that it called for some free motion quilting.  It was time consuming not so much doing the negative space but stitching in the ditch of all the pieced units. Took me hours and hours. It helped having this sawn off ankle!  I’d seen on Karin’s blog  The Quilt Yarn  about a modified ankle which made visibility better. This is for the Pfaff 4.2 QE. in effect as you can see from the pictures it cuts off the bit to which you attach the foot which isn’t needed when FMQing. Not the cheapest of ankles as it had to come from the US  but worth it. You can see in the second picture how much the normal ankle obscures things when you are quilting backwards.



So another quilt towards the 100 we need this year. Every quilt counts.


Linking up with Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation and Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts 

Breaking out the Outback Wife


For those who read this post without background knowledge of quilting fabrics then the title must be mystifying if not, on humanitarian grounds, potentially alarming!  But for those who do follow fabric then you will know that this is a fabric range called Outback Wife in bark cloth by the Australian designer Gertrude Made inspired  by women she met in the Outback  (quite literally – this one is called Kirsten). That of itself isn’t unusual, fabric designers take inspiration where they can find it, but what was more unique was shamelessly going for a vintage feel in using bark cloth and some beautiful and unusual designs in a large print florals.

It got a lot of attention and despite the eye watering price at £27 per metre it caught on amongst dress makers and quilters. I resisted but gave in and bought a metre decrying it was the most expensive fabric purchase of my life. So it would take a special project to make me break it out and cut it up and thanks to a Sew Along for Aneela Hoey’s book Stitched Sewing Organisers I found one. 

Continue reading

Bold and Brave Quilt


I am neither bold nor brave but that was the title of Kim Lapacek’s Project Quilting challenge. This is a challenge set every couple of weeks for the first couple of months of the year to make a quilt on a given theme in a week. In fairness it doesn’t have to be a quilt, just a quilted item. Nevertheless the challenge of doing it in a week rarely fits in with my life but I always check the theme as to whether it sparks anything.

An example from last year was the theme best dressed man and I chose to make this mini quilt  out of my late husband’s ties. It is hanging above me as I type.


Three things sparked me this time. I’d seen an IG post from @mrsterritee of 3 beautiful quilts using Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts Big Nines design she had made, with the help of her Bee, for the charity Siblings Together (see tab above) .  It was a bold and graphic design perfect for an older teen/young adult. Almost immediately after, I saw a post from Jo Avery @mybearpaw of Thread House fame about Social Bite, a project for homeless people in Edinburgh. Her husband, Jonathon Avery, coming off the back of his experience of designing ‘tiny houses’ has developed a two person dwelling and a number of them are being built on donated land to help transition people without homes into eventually permanent housing.  If you a key player in this initiative  and you are married to one of the country’s best known quilters then you can bet your bottom dollar that quilts will  be found in these houses. To that end Jo was asking for quilt donations. So my bold and brave quilt was born, bold because I chose bright, bold colours (quite the change for me) and brave doing a quilt in a week with a fairly full schedule.

Well I think both paid off.  I grabbed my teens before they headed off to school to advise me on colours from my solids. This was going to be my first ever solids only quilt. So I was left with these….. a quick trip to The Cotton Patch my local quilting shop to gather more quantities of the colours we had chosen and I was away….


It is a quick and easy design. Lots of chain piecing and so perfect for  giving Winnie, our new addition to my sewing family,  a workout.


In fact aside from the quilting, which given its size and the tiny throat of the Featherweight wasn’t practical, everything was sewn on Winnie. It was a good learning experience.  The spool doesn’t hold masses so that had to be redone a number of times.  The tension went wonky and I then realised I hadn’t threaded the bobbin correctly  and so on. The seam guide above was excellent for accuracy as I’d found without it the very silky surface of the machine allowed a lot of movement as you sewed. The  honeymoon isn’t over yet….

While the blocks were done in a day, as we all know, deciding on the layout of the top, sewing the top, then basting, quilting and binding can take up at least as long.  I sewed into the nights as you can see in this picture…


And I won’t say how long I sewed into the early hours to get the bulk of the binding done. Of course the house is a mess and I’m not sure my children will have enough clean clothes for the weekend but it’s done. Sigh. Not sure I will be racing to do this again!

But I’m pleased with it and its big enough at 80″ long for a tall person.  I found working with solids in some ways quite straightforward but they are unforgiving, no pattern to disguise a less than perfect wonky seam. Having had a fling with AGF’s Pure Elements as a solid I have rather gone back to more conventional, less fine woven Kona and Makower solids.  They have more give and don’t crinkle as much.

The pictures were taken in my parents London garden. They have this lovely brick wall but no way of securing it but its a wonderful backdrop. If the wall lived with me I’d rig something up but on a cold windy February afternoon the quilt being draped over the wall had to do, just prior to falling to the floor!


The quilt was too big even for my 6’ Dad to hold unaided so we roped in the neighbour’s fence as well. Typically just as we put up the quilt the wind picked up and you can see the over sized peg flying off.


I hope it fits the bill and provides someone with warmth as they start on the next phase of  a more settled and happier chapter of their lives. I’m looking forward to more updates as this project progresses.

Linking up with Amanda Jean Crazy Mom Quilts and Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation


A new addition to the family

No not a new baby……heaven forfend…. my new addition is this beautiful Singer Featherweight which I found on EBay and went to collect last week.


I have to say, casting back four years, I would have been utterly horrified at this purchase. Why have something so old when you have perfectly decent modern machines with all their gadgetry. But you know how these things gradually creep under your skin and your opinions start to change as you see other people sew on them and appear delighted with their ancient sewing machines and their performance.

A couple of years back I had the opportunity of having this sewing machine which had been long disused in my mother in law’s house having belonged to her mother-in-law. I was tempted but what  put me off was that it was handcranked and you must believe me I need every hand going to ensure accurate seams!  It was also incredibly heavy and bulky and I could just see it being abandoned as it had been by my mother-in-law. If I change my mind it’s still in my sister in-law’s garage.



Having done some research and deciding that something neat, compact and light was what I wanted the obvious choice was the Singer Featherweight. Tens of thousands of these were produced both in the UK and America between 1933 and 1960s and proved very  popular. So they are not rare or hard to come by, particularly this 221K model. There is a more rare 222K which has the benefit of being able to remove the base so that you’ve got a free arm. But essentially they are both the same straightforward mechanical straight stitch machines. Just perfect for piecing.

But in finding one there  are the horror stories of these machines being bought on spec on places like EBay then failing to function very well.  I have absolutely zero ability in anything mechanical. I need things that work first time with no hassle. The general advice was to find a knowledgeable dealer and with a bit of poking around on EBay  I found a seller who, based on his history of many happy buyers of vintage machines, particularly the Featherweight, clearly made restoring sewing machines his job. So for a premium on the price, which I was very happy to pay and in reality wasn’t actually that much, I got a machine that had been fully restored, serviced, new belt, new electrics and LED light.  I wanted the confidence that I wasn’t going to get something which caused hassle and was tricky to use.

I didn’t want to risk it being delivered by a carrier and the vagaries of their handling and he was near enough in the East Midlands to collect it in person. Having seen Philip’s set up I was even more confident.  He obviously loves these machines and takes pride in his workmanship. Of course Winnie (yes she has a name) has scratches and marks but she will have a load more after I have been sewing on her as she is definitely not for show. She will be regularly used and if that means she gets battered and scratched then so be it.

The children were much intrigued by this new acquisition.  There was general agreement it smelled.  I think that’s the case in which it has probably long resided and the cases are notoriously smelly. Apparently something to do with the glue used. Someone on IG suggested putting some tumbler sheets  inside the case and that’s worked well.  It’s smaller than I’d imagined and almost looks like a toy machine. The apple in the picture gives it scale.


The thing that really amused me was their surprise that it had a motor and plug. I explained at 66 years young she was only a few years older than me. My children genuinely thought that electricity was relatively recent. Well obviously both their schooling and I have failed in their education!

Thanks to some excellent videos on the basics of the machine on the website by the delightful 12 year old Ruthie, daughter of the owners, I was up and running in no time. I tell you her video presentation skills put to shame many quilters who post on YouTube during which viewings you might just well lose the will to live! Excepting of course the wonderful Jenny Doan of MQC. Back to the  machine it sews beautifully and so quietly.  I’m rather smitten.

So what have I made with it? Well I did some trial blocks and I noticed that the wonderfully silky smooth finish of the sewing machine meant getting my seam allowance more difficult  I need to work on that but other than that it is, because it’s so basic, easy to sew on. I sewed quite a few curved blocks for a new project

I had every intention of finishing off this sampler pouch of all the blocks I made at the Thread House Retreat last week using the Featherweight. The log burner was lit and after lunch I was settling in for a lazy Sunday afternoon sewing in the lounge when one of the children came down, snuggled up on sofa with a quilt and fell asleep. Well the Featherweight is quiet but not that quiet so I had to use the conventional machines upstairs. Best laid plans….


I cobbled the idea from one or two others who used their blocks in a similar way. I used Jo Avery’s pattern for her tendrils pouch  but made it slightly larger to accommodate the blocks particularly the kettle. It makes a large pouch perfect for all the sewing paraphernalia you need when sewing from home

I free motion quilted the words which with the help of a light box to trace the letters and then with slow steady sewing it came out alright


I cheated and used a lino cut of a cat I made at last year’s retreat for an extra block.  As you can see despite Karen Lewis’ excellent teaching I haven’t quite mastered  the art of consistent lino printing…


The Thread House Retreat Bee for Siblings Together

Welcome to the Thread House Retreat Bee  for Siblings Together.  It was great to meet everyone at the Thread House Retreat and thank you for offering to be part of this Bee! Didn’t we have a great time. Still enjoying all the IG posts of what everyone made or received.

We had such a great response to the appeal we have enough for a new Bee. I’m hoping we may go up to 12 but at the moment we have around 10 as I haven’t heard back from everyone  But to tap into the enthusiasm that is out there I thought we’d get started on making blocks while I make the finishing touches to the rota for this year, in practice until July 2018. I’ve chosen a design that is’nt that block intensive so we should be able to pull this one off together quite quickly.


So one of the favourite quilts I’ve ever made is this beauty – my first Siblings Together quilt as a monthly mama with Bee 2. There are over 50 fabrics in that quilt. And that’s the magic behind most of our bee quilts, the sheer variety. I don’t normally repeat quilts but this is such a lovely design and I fancied doing it in warm colours this time.


The pattern is a free one from Cloud 9 fabrics called Field Crossing. Heaven knows why it’s called that but nevertheless the rectangular block shape is a bit different but still a very simple and a quick block with virtually no waste. Apologies for the fact that starting squares are down to eighths”! I did try rounding them up to whole inch squares but there was a lot more trimming – it seems 1/8″ makes more of a difference than you’d think!! But after that it’s pretty straightforward.

As I’ve said I would like warm colours like orange, mustard, plum, terracotta, pink etc please mix it up. And with the background, solid white only preferably a bright white. I found using a full 1/4″ seam was better than a scant one.

To make two blocks you will need the following:

In solid bright white (not cream, fawn etc)

           1 x 6 7/8ths” square cut diagonally and then cut again diagonally to make  4  triangles

In warm colours solids or prints in orange, plum, pink, mustard, terracotta or warm brown

4 x 4 7/8ths” squares cut from 4 different prints or solids  and then cut diagonally to make 2 triangles per square

2 x 4 1/2” squares


For the angley challenged like myself I found it really helpful to lay the block out as below then stitch accordingly.


When sewing the seams line up the pieces where I’ve circled  don’t worry about the dog ears at each end


Next layout the other triangles and sew the white triangle to the coloured triangle


When sewing the white and coloured triangle units to the middle unit line up the seams where I have circled


The finished block trimmed

IMG_6705The finished blocks are a smidgeon over 6″ by 11 3/4″. But don’t worry too much – they will be sashed as you can see from the pattern.

If you could make 2 – 4 blocks I would be very grateful. If you get into the swing then extra blocks are always useful and if I get enough I will make another quilt

Any problems or glaring issues or just a better way to do it please let me know. I’m not a sensitive soul!! But most importantly have fun.

Retreat offerings






Another great retreat was organised by Jo Avery and Karen Lewis  down on Folly Farm, a small conference centre on a nature reserve near Bristol. I’m afraid re-entry into real life is always hard after a relaxing weekend away but I shall relive the highlights so it lasts just a bit longer.

First the swap items….

This year there was a storage pot swap and the usual name tag.

Starting with the name tag, after frankly a disappointing name tag I made for Rachel last year I was determined to improve on that.  It seemed, looking around at the others that those on a lanyard were bigger and offered more scope. This year I was making for Eveline who wasn’t on social media so I couldn’t stalk her so went with a modern style and hoped for the best.  I was more pleased with it this year and she was delighted.


My own badge is this very sweet and beautifully made lilac and cat concoction made by Jane. A perfect size and design.


As to the storage pot, I was making for Marianne @marianneoloughlin who I was also rooming with.  She has modern tastes so went with these modern hexies and Caroline Friedlander fabric for the base and scraps of blue on Essex Dyed Linen. I filled it with a few sewing bits and pieces.


As to my pot I received this beauty….



There’s a funny story about it. An IG friend I was looking forward to meeting at the retreat was Catrin @patshycatrin. Her full on life with 3 young children and working in the family business means sewing has to take a back seat. Catrin had planned free time the days before to prep for the retreat but family illness took over and that time got swallowed up. An IG post from her saying she doubted she’d be able to make it as she had so much to do led me to offer to make the storage pot which she kindly declined. I realised why when the swap took place because I was the person she was making for and she clearly couldn’t give me back my own storage pot!

Catrin showed this beautiful quilt she made with blocks from a number of us for Siblings Together



Catrin is happy for me to share the link to the pattern for this great block  here.

All these swap items are so lovely to use and remind you of the talent and generosity of friends. So I was thrilled to receive this beautiful needlecase from Kate @katew131. Kate is hugely talented  and is starting to write and publish patterns. One to watch…


And finally these three fabric trays for my room mates one of whom @helen_steele_029 has started screen printing and I used her designs for her tray.



What did we do? Well aside from eat, laugh and socialise there were four workshops  but Jo and Karen were relaxed if you wanted to factor in free sewing so I did just two which worked well for me. Both were with Kerry of @verykerryberry.

One workshop was on small accurate piecing. Kerry was the perfect person as she makes exquisite small blocks. She’s also a very capable teacher and seems to intuitively know when you need help as she toured round the room. Undoubtedly the success of these retreats is down to the hosts and teachers who aside from being very talented are delightful.

Now this was a workshop I needed as I’m not accurate. There were some excellent tips like going forwards, backwards and forwards again when rotary cutting to stop drag, cutting on point for the 4 hst out of two blocks method to avoid bias and using shorter stitches. And my output….. two 6” blocks which took me on average 2 hours each…. so not quick makes….. I used my small liberty stash to go with the trad designs.



The other workshop was also with Kerry this time on paper piecing of a kitchen three piece. I chose the kettle. If I’m honest I am probably not to complete the others but hope to use the block in some way. But arriving late because of sickness at home with one of the children I enjoyed catching up with others as I slowly pieced this. There is no question that as pleasurable as sewing in company is that it definitely impacts on productivity.


in terms of free sewing time I got a start on a couple of new projects.


In amidst all the sewing and chatting being on the doorstep of beautiful walks I couldn’t resist early morning walks and making use of some of the free time for fresh air. The weather wasn’t great but mild and dry enough for some good walks.


Back in real life it’s great to be home and ensure the children are still alive and as happy as teens can be. They had had to do their own lunch so I arrived to find 3 hungry people and takeouts were definitely the order of the day. I shall get back to the reality of cooking again but first to put everything away if I don’t get too distracted by everything I brought back.