Thursday, 12 November 2015

Stitch Gathering 2015 - MEGA PINNIE

One of the classes I took at the Stitch Gathering was learning to make the MEGA PINNIE!

It's a large pin cushion designed by Sheila Donnachie which can hold various notions and help to keep your work station neat (or in my case neater).

There was some pre-sewing to do and I finally found a use for my first EPP hexagon.

I achieved a PB at the Stitch Gathering this year by actually finishing something I'd learned to make! I was glad I did the quilting of the panels in advance as I would not have had enough time to do everything in the class.

Here's how it came together:

It now has pride of place on my sewing table and stores everything I need to hand - mainly scissors, the rotary cutter and, best of all, thousands of pins! 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Stitch Gathering 2015 - Pre-Sewing

At the end of September, I attended the Stitch Gathering in Edinburgh.  This is the third time I've been and the first time I finished the items I started - hooray!

I'm going to start with the pre-sewing and write up the classes and day itself in another post.

The ticket for the Stitch Gathering is sent to you for embellishment and return at the end itself.  This has previously been a quilt block and a canvas bag.

This year the brief was to embellish a piece of white cotton with a word - any word - which could be sewn up into a quilt.  

I struggled for a long time to think of a word.  My initial thought was democracy, but I didn't want anything too long.  The night before the event itself when I was tearing my hair out, I decided to go with VOTE.

I cut the letters out of 3" by 3" squares, to represent the box on voting papers, and appliqued it onto the piece of cotton.  I ironed it before I handed it in, I promise!

You can see some of the other fantastic words people came up with in Jo Avery's, My BearPaw and Stitch Gathering organiser, post here.


For the name tag swap this year, I decided to make a little needle book which could be used after the event.  The hook was attached to a string for wearing on the day but can hold scissors afterwards.

I made the pattern up, which meant I made lots of mistakes and this binding was on and off about three times before I got it right.  

I used matchstick quilting on the outside and left negative space for my partners name.


This was a new addition to the pre-sewing homework.  Swappers were asked to make something for a partner which they could use as a sewing accessory.

I was flicking through Quilt Now Magazine and stumbled across a EPP kit case which I decided to make for my partner.  Having a pattern for this one meant no mistakes!

It's  bit wonky but I was super proud of this zip!

It turned out my partner is making a La Passacaglia quilt so this will come in handy - success!  

I also had some other sewing to do in preparation for the big day which I'll show you in the next Stitch Gathering post!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

On top of the swaps

I love it when I get free time to sew.  Weekends with no other plans, evenings when I get home unexpectedly early or a random day off - when there's nothing else more pressing to do than sit and sew.

Most of the time though, I sew vicariously by mooching around Instagram and blogs, often in between other tasks or engagements.  As a summer of BUSY comes to a close, I've found myself trigger happy with the SIGN UP sheet and have enrolled in two swaps.

I'm doing the Easy Swap UK and the Schnitzel and Boo Mini Swap.

I've never participated a swap or made a mini before, so as per usual I thought I'd sign up for some uncharted territory with deadlines!  I've got some ideas so here's hoping they work out.  I believe it's bad etiquette to show too much in advance of the actual swap (your partner gives such specific instructions as to their likes and dislikes so they will be able to guess if it's for them) so I'll keep quiet on those for now.

The swap I can tell you about is the Stitch Gathering notion swap.  With uncharacteristic efficiency, I've completed my item (the deadline is a month away).

It's a travel EPP kit, based on the pattern by Laura Jane Taylor in Quilt Now a couple of months ago. I'm going to include a couple of paper templates, pins, needles and some thread (mainly to show what it is!).

It's also got scissor holders and a zipped pocket (representing four hours of swearing and tears).

My top tip for inserting this zip was Scotch Tape.   I realise the illusion is shattered at this point, but if it helps even one other person conquer the misery of zip instertion, it will have been worth it!

As this swap was randomly allocated, rather than based on partner criteria, I think it's okay to show it to you!  I'm really looking forward to the Stitch Gathering at the end of September.  I've already started my name badge too and have started thinking about my ticket.

I feel as though I'm a massive over achiever in comparison to my usual last minute approach, but then I have signed up for rather a lot over the next couple of months so better get cracking.  Especially when you consider those two wedding quilts are still no closer to finished!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

How to make a triangle quilt

I recently completed the largest quilt I've ever attempted, an 80" by 90" bed quilt.  It was also the first time I've made a triangle quilt so I thought I'd share some hints and tips I picked up along the way, as well as some advice from others I really should have followed!


The quilt is made up of 540 triangles. I cut them using a template but there's lots of great tutorials out there on how to cut equilateral triangles.  I would have used the 60 degree line on my mat and my ruler if I didn't have this template.

I was cutting them two - four at a time and then stacked them neatly, avoiding overhandling. I stacked in pIkea of 20 in ddifferent direction to keep count.

Advice which seems to pop up again and again on triangles is to use plenty of starch, as you end up with lots of bias edges which stretch when handled excessively. Now, I'm not a massive fan of starch (I don't think I've found the right one for me yet - any recommendations?) and so opted to skip this step, and decided to "just be careful". This was fine, but I definitely ended up with some stretch edges.  I was lucky and manage to work it out when sewing them together, but if you're not up for gambling like me, I would starch them.

I used fat quarters (FQs) from my stash and specially purchased quarter yard width of fabric (WOF) strips, and got more triangles out of the FQs than the WOF strips.  This was because I hadn't brought the template to the shop with me and didn't think the process through when I opted to buy WOF strips.


As is probably apparent from the above, I tend to think of instructions as a guide rather than as a rigid formula which must be adhered to and I'm a massive fan of shortcuts!  I don't normally pin. However, I have worked with squares until now and you can nest rows of seams together to get perfect points.

Discarding my usual lazy attitude, I was a good pinner with this quilt.  Drawing inspiration from this post by Connecting Threads on using pins to create perfect points, I pinned every single point in the quilt.

I pinned through the points to make sure they lined up exactly.  I left the pin in until I was within a stitch of it and then removed it.

My sewing machine is a beauty and allows you to regulate the speed at which you sew very easily. Sometimes I'd stop but sometimes I'd just slow right down.  My sewing machine also lets you sew single stitches, which my previous model did not (there were only two states - stopped completely or a thousand stitches a minute!).  This meant I could get very close before I removed the pin, reducing the chance of slippage.

Pinning was time consuming, but I got some of the best results I've ever achieved in quilting. There's a lesson in there somewhere....

I read this tutorial by Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts.  Her tip about pressing open the seams is one I wish I'd taken.  You'll see from the photo below that I ended up with very bulky points.  This really affected the quilting on those areas and it was difficult to stitch neatly, if at all, over the bumps.

I think pressing open the seams would have made life easier.  I also wasn't able to take her tip about pressing in the same direction if you do opt to press your seams to the side because I sewed all my triangles into pairs before deciding on the layout.  This would also have helped to reduce bulk.


I had to rearrange my living room in order to baste this monster quilt!  I spent three hours crawling around on the floor and I thought it was been a great success.

I love stippling and really wanted to use this technique on this quilt.  However, I was very pushed for time and thought that straight line quilting would both be quicker and give a more professional finish.

I managed three length-of-quilt lines before I had to accept that my basting was not tight enough and it was going to be baggier than I'd be happy with.  I had to unpick the three lines, which took an entire evening.  This is the second large quilt I've had to unpick quilting on and it is not a happy place. The stippling did mean I could tighten as I went which was good and I would recommend this technique if your basting is not up to much. It really helped to sort out any problems with the basting.

I would also swallow my pride and spray baste (at least partially) another huge quilt.


I am absolutely delighted with the binding on this quilt and it's a real marker for me of how much I've improved.  I machine bound it as the binding was the same as the backing fabric and, again, I was in a hurry.  However, it was so neat and quilt I think I'm just going to accept that I much prefer it to hand binding, even though the latter is more discreet.

I watched this tutorial by the Missouri Star Quilt Company which has the best tip ever, and allows you to join your binding without an overlap.  It's really smart.


I really enjoyed making this quilt, so full of challenges and the excitement of the prospect of pulling it off.  I watched this video by Angela Walters about quilting before I started and the tips she shared could apply to a lot of things in life, not just quilting.

I was working to a tight deadline to finish this quilt and it was obviously playing on my mind. I woke up in the middle of the night following a dream all about setting up a quilting department at my work! Now, it would be great if they had one, but I don't think it'd progress any of the aims of the corporate plan!

Linking up with
Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts

Sew Fresh Quilts

Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation

My Quilt Infatuation

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Which sewing machine should I buy for quilting?

I have previously written about the fact I didn't own a sewing machine when I started quilting.  I now have two:

This Singer beauty and a very snazzy new toy, which I will come on to.  

I sew(ed) on my Mum's sewing machine, a Brother PX 100, which she has for necessity, rather than hobby purposes.  I pinched it to go to my first quilting class three years ago and didn't look (or give it) back.  I bought the relevant feet and off we went, merrily quilting away.

Over this time, as an avid reader of quilting blogs, I have become aware or all the amazing features on machines which can make your quilting life easier.  Dictating whether the needle stops in the up or down position, more speed control, knee lifts for the presser foot and large throat/harp space - they all sound mighty useful.  

Actually, I'm not sure why being able to lift the presser foot with your knee is good - but I'll take everyone's word for it.

It is with heavy heart (and a bit of grovelling to my Mum) that I've had to admit defeat with this particular Brother machine.  Truth is, it had a bit of an accident a while back (gravity related) and then when finishing Ugly Bug Ball I noticed the light bulb was melting the casing from the inside. 


I was ready to leap into the world of the aforementioned fancy features and purchase my "I'm definitely into this quilting malarky for the long haul and need a machine for serious quilting - I'll use it, I promise" machine.

I started a bit of online research and long story short - there is a lot of information out there.  It has been so helpful for me in choosing my new sewing machine.

My specifications were:
  • Larger throat space
  • Automatic needle down
  • Preferably with feet (not a deal breaker)
This post is really a public service announcement, and I have compiled a list of all the blog posts I have found which have been really helpful in making THE decision.  Which machine?

Multi Machine Reviews
Janome 7700
Claire E Poppins brought this machine to my attention first, but it turns out I was REALLY late to the party.  Read all about it at:
Janome 8900

I also tried this in the shop - loved it.  It is apparently the step up from the 7700, but only in so far as it has extra stitches.  

Excellent reviews from:
Florence of Flossie Teacakes has one.  

Reader, I married him.

So why this machine? A great quality, quilting friendly machine which has all the features I set my heart on and more!  However, I have also been really impressed with Janome in general and looking at other machines, it seems a few of the things I really like are replicated in other, less pricey models too.

In the end, I went for this machine because there was an excellent deal on a refurbished machine on the day I went into the shop. It made me think that so much of the decision must come down to geography, timing, and luck.  I have certainly been very lucky and see a happy future ahead of me with the Janome (both this machine and the brand). 

Then it made me think that I was definitely over analysing it, it wasn't the most important decision of my life - it is a machine for my hobby.  Ha!

I've been using the machine for a year now and absolutely love it.  I am really grateful to the conscientious bloggers who have put together such extensive research so that others might have a slightly easier time of it.  I intend to keep this blog post updated with any new reviews of machines I come across.  If you've written a review of your machine, and would like to be added to this list, please let me know!  

Monday, 20 July 2015

Fun in the oven

I've run out of sewing steam a little bit recently.  Since completing the triangle quilt, I've not quite managed to get back into the other large projects I had on the go.

These mainly consisted of two wedding quilts for dear pals who got married at the end of June and the beginning of July.  Despite having thought about it for months, one of them is still half done and the other isn't even started!  I just couldn't seem to get into it and then between hen parties and weddings, I just ran out of time and had to admit they were not going to happen for the big days.

I wanted to give them something though, and in my family we've a thing about oven gloves and hen parties.  I bought some Warm Company insulated batting years ago with the intention of making oven gloves at some point, so this seemed the perfect opportunity to have a go!

I used this tutorial from We All Sew.

These were really simple to make and made great presents.  Much as I loved gifting a large quilt, sometimes it is nice to just finish something quickly.

Anyone got any quick pattern recommendations for "instant gratification" sewing?

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Triangle Quilt - DONE!

I finished the quilt for my husband, a gift for our first wedding anniversary, at about 15:30 on the day itself, having been locked away in the sewing room for much of the week.  Not ideal, but I got there in the end!

In the final week I completed the top,



squared up,

and bound the whole thing!

Basting was the first time I got to see the whole thing at once, and I was suddenly pretty intimidated with an overwhelming feeling I'd bitten off more than I could chew.  I ploughed on though and was pretty chuffed with the results.  This is the largest quilt I've made and although there were lots of learning curves (next post - right now I'm just reveling in the positives) I'm delighted with how it turned out.

 It's too big to photograph!

Linking up with everyone this week:

Sew Cute Tuesday

Fresh Poppy Design

Sew Fresh Quilts