Made it to Quilts UK, Malvern

Well! There it is! My quilt hanging in the exhibition hall at Malvern:

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I traveled to Malvern on Saturday in the good company of quilting ladies from North Hampshire Quilters. The coach journey takes about 2 hours following a route from Hampshire through Wiltshire and up into Gloucestershire. The countryside looked so lush after the recent rains and between the showers the air was beautifully clear. Here are a few snaps taken through the coach window:

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I’ve been to the Spring Quilts UK show four or five times so the venue is comfortably familiar and the exhibition is laid out the same way each year – many of the traders have the same booth space from year to year. I had a little shopping list and managed to find most of the notions and fabric I was after – and a few extra items besides 😉 Including a spotty layer cake and the backing for the heart quilt 🙂

Did I enjoy seeing my quilt in the exhibition? Yes! I did! Not so much a feeling of pride in the quilt itself more a real sense of pleasure in achieving the goal. I am full of criticism of my quilt – both in the design and in the uneven density of the quilting. But I won’t bang on about that! The whole project has been a great learning experience, not only in designing and free motion quilting but also in the logistics of entering a quilt into a national show. It’s been a great venture in my year of VENTURE.

Quilters are a friendly bunch; get a whole host of us together at a show and there’s bound to be plenty of warmhearted interaction. At lunch time I joined a group from NHQ who were sheltering under the protection of a large umbrella at a picnic table , sharing news of our purchases; by 2pm I was gasping for a coffee and much in need of another sit down, there were no free tables in the little dining hall but a mother and daughter were happy for me to share with them and we had a good chat about our journeys and our patchwork. A while later I got chatting to a lady who had been recently bereaved and had joined a coach trip on a whim with no knowledge of patchwork and quilting. We took a tour of some of the quilts on show, discussing the piecing techniques used and having a close look at the differences between machine and hand quilting – I do hope she left the Show feeling less confused than when we first met!

Here is the winning ‘Gardener’s World’ quilt by Moira Neal – it was also the overall Show Winner and achieved a judges rosette for the fabric painting too.

'Latin for Quilters'

‘Latin for Quilters’ by Moira Neal. Won the Gardeners World category and was overall show Winner.

And here are just a few of the other quilts that caught my eye as I wandered round… The standard of workmanship was quite breathtaking – especially the applique, hand quilting and free motion quilting.

'Spring Garden'

‘Spring Garden’ by Cecilia Slinn

'A Quilt for Art Lovers' by Fiona Macaulay Davies

‘A Quilt for Art Lovers’ by Fiona Macaulay Davies

'Dinner Time on Puffin Island' by Ethelda Ellis

‘Dinner Time on Puffin Island’ by Ethelda Ellis. I was so busy looking at the two puffins in the foreground that I didn’t notice the third bird coming into land!

Rhewlif (Glacier) 2016 by Sandi Lush

‘Rhewlif (Glacier) 2016 by Sandi Lush. One of Sandi’s 24 cot-sized quilts on display – all inspired by traditional Welsh hand quilting motifs.

You can see more of Sandi Lush’s handiwork here. Incidently Malvern is a stones throw from the English/Welsh border so lots of the voices I heard through the day had the lovely, musical Welsh lilt.

'Circulation' by Carole and Emma Galbraith

‘Circulation’ pieced by Carole Galbraith and longarm quilted by her daughter, Emma.

A last glimpse of the Malvern Hills as we began our journey home:


The Malvern Hills from the Three Counties Showground

And so to bed…


Linking with Beth for Main Crush Monday. I’m counting on my first time having a quilt hung at a national show making this post eligible for a ‘main crush’ 🙂

Posted in Gardener's World Quilt, Inspiration, Local Quilt Groups, Quilt Exhibitions, Venture | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Quick Curve Ruler – my first attempt at curved piecing

Whilst in the midst of quilting the ‘Gardener’s World’ quilt I found much relief in reading the posts of other quilty bloggers. One led me to do a bit of research online before reaching for my credit card (patchwork quilting, considering it’s thrifty origins, can be surprisingly demanding on the purse!).  The blog post along with Sew Kind of Wonderful‘s no-nonsense online tutorials convinced me to splash out on their Quick Curve Ruler©. I have to confess here to my online trail going cold – I just can’t find the blog post that sparked my interest in the ruler – apologies for not being able to credit the writer.

Quick Curve Ruler

The Quick Curve Ruler and my first two blocks

Once the show quilt was finished, wrapped and in the post I broke the cellophane covering on the ruler, read the instructions, selected some fabrics and determined to follow the Urban Runner pattern sent with the ruler. The printed instructions backed up with an occasional recap from the online tutorials made the piecing process straightforward. I could feel my confidence growing with each curve I stitched.

Quick Curve runner

Urban Runner blocks on the design wall

A few points to note:

  • I saw several tutorials produced by Sew Kind of Wonderful. In the one I followed (click here for link) Helen Robinson clearly stated that the points at the ends of the curves would not meet. The intention in the Urban Runner pattern is to create the curves, not make perfect meeting points at the seams.
Quick curve - mismatched points

The pattern intends the points not to meet. I think I could have made the curves meet more accurately though – see left of photo.

  • For a more detailed set of tutorials, this time for a pattern using 10″ layer cakes, follow these links (all by Jenny Pedigo of Sew Kind of Wonderful): Cutting CurvesPiecing Curves; Squaring Up Blocks.
  • The curved slot in the ruler can comfortably take a 45mm rotary cutter. I had to get used to keeping the blade against the left hand side of the slot and not wobbling off to the right – just practice!
  • I found my fabrics did get a bit distorted as I stitched together the curved bias edges but there is allowance made for this in the pattern. The online instructions for trimming the completed blocks are very helpful. I did end up with quite a big pile of waste trimmings!
Trimming a quick curve block

The growing pile of trimmings. The right hand edge of the ruler is positioned ready to trim the block – look at the bowed outer edge and the amount of fabric to be trimmed away!

Completed top of quick curve runner

The completed top of the Quick Curve Ruler runner. Measures 14.5″ by 53″.

I’ll definitely be making use of the ruler again. It’s an encouraging way into curved piecing as the techniques used do not require the use of pins; the curves are gentle so seams don’t bunch-up or need snipping; and the pattern allows plenty of excess fabric to trim back to the correct block size. Sew Kind of Wonderful have a whole range of patterns to purchase as well as some that are free and there are lots of inspiring  pictures of finished quilts to be found online.

So there it is; another bit of VENTURING for 2017. When I ordered the Quick Curve Ruler from Creative Grids I also ordered a set of Drunkard’s Path templates… Venturing into curved piecing isn’t over yet 🙂

Quick Curve Ruler and Drunkard's Path templates

Linking with Kelly for Needle and Thread Thursday.


(Promise- no affiliate links in this post!)


Posted in Curved Piecing, Inspiration, Learn, Modern quilts, Piecing tips, Rulers, Tablerunners, Venture | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

If you go down to the woods today…

First thing Saturday morning we drove down the picturesque A30 road to Winchester. With the help(ish) of the SatNav we negotiated the tortuous one way system in the centre of the Cathedral City and found the tiny sewing shop, Reads of Winchester. I parted company with my Pfaff entrusting it to the care and ministrations of the sewing machine engineer. *GULP* It is hard to part – even temporarily – with one’s sewing machine.

On the way home we diverted to the Forestry Commission land around Micheldever in search of bluebells. The woods were so beautiful. The bright, lime coloured leaves of the tall beech trees were just unfurling above the misty lavender/blue haze of the bluebells…

Beech trees, Micheldever May 17

Bluebells, Micheldever

Bluebells (2)

Bluebells (3)

I wonder if it was a scene similar to this that inspired J.R.R Tolkien’s Lothlorien?

Bluebells (4)

For me those couple of hours in the woods at Micheldever were an opportunity to wonder at and enjoy God’s awesome creative powers. Even if you don’t believe in the God of Creation I do hope you get the chance very soon to just stand and gaze in wonder at the beauty of the natural world around you 🙂


Posted in Awe and Wonder, Colour, Inspiration | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Tips-as-we-go quilting (6)

It’s taken me a few days to sit down and write this final installment to this series of posts following the ups and downs of quilting my entry for the Quilts UK 2017 ‘Gardener’s World’ theme. I’ll start with the finish – the photo was taken at 7.45am on a gloomy day (a few minutes before my two quilt holder-upper-ers left for work – bless).

In the Cool of the Evening

Photo of ‘In the Cool of the Evening’ taken in the gloom of the morning! I hope you can see the general idea – a birds-eye view of a formal garden?

I had to whizz up to  my local store to buy some brown paper and bubble wrap before parceling-up the quilt and trotting in the opposite direction to the post office.


Yeah! Quilt in a parcel, ready to go 🙂

Now I’ve taken the tension out of the ‘will she, won’t she finish the quilt?’ story I hope you can relax and spare a few minutes to re-live with me the final few days of quilting 🙂

Having quilted leaves all over the green hedges my next adventure was to quilt flowers through the flower beds. I used an off-white Aurifil thread (2311) and began quilting flowers by stitching five or six petals around a little circle, linking the flowers with a few loops along a wavy line. This went fairly well… Though when I checked the back of the quilt I noticed I was creating some ‘eye-lash’ stitches. *SIGH*

Eyelash stitches

I knew these could be caused by incorrect thread tension but having readjusted the tension to resolve the  skipped stitches issue earlier in this quilting adventure I was very reluctant to make any further adjustments. And, it was more likely that the eye-lashes were being caused by me failing to coordinate machine speed (via the foot pedal) and the movement of the quilt (via hand speed). I took to the internet straight away to help me overcome this issue. I found two helpful articles that agreed on the cause but gave different solutions:

  • Leah Day – advises allowing hands to do what comes naturally, concentrating on pressure foot control to speed up and slow down as necessary (click here to read Leah’s advice).
  • Ruth Whitehall – advises keeping foot control pressure constant and practicing keeping hand speed consistent – not speeding up around curves (click here to read Ruth’s advice).

I’m not quite sure which of the two strategies I employed but I did end up quilting those flowers at quite a high speed so the stitch length became quite titchy (unpicking those teeny stitches would be a nightmare!). Anyway, the increased speed must have helped my hand-foot coordination as there were fewer eye-lash stitches following the change.


The next areas to be quilted were the four central flowerbeds. I decided to quilt undulating petal-like shapes spirally out from the centre of each bed. Hum! I have to confess that as I struggled to keep the quilt moving, it’s bulk pushing against the throat of the machine and it’s weight pulling away behind the machine, I did lose my temper! Grrr! No rude words were spoken but I did growl! I tried putting on some favourite music to calm me but found I was concentrating so hard that any sounds were distracting – my poor little brain just couldn’t take anymore!

Spiral fmq flowers

Fmq pebblingNonetheless I soldiered on and completed the flowerbed sections. Then I had fun pebbling some sections of the paths. It was easier to manage these areas as they are towards the outer edges of the quilt so I didn’t find myself fighting with so much bulk in the throat of the machine. I debated adding more quilting to the rest of the paths but, quite frankly, I’d run out of time. The fabric in the paths is a bit puffy in places and overall the density of stitching across the quilt is not as even I had planned – I was intending to have stitching lines about 2 inches apart, actually they are more like 1 inch apart which makes the paths look even more ‘under-stitched’ (hope you know what I mean?).

Quilted ripples on the pond

I created a ripple effect over the ponds.

Label and quilting

The label is part of the pieced backing and I’m pleased with the variety of quilting patterns that have covered it 🙂

The quilt was easy to square up and trim – I guess all that quilting in the outer borders helped it keep it’s shape. On Thursday evening, before transforming my sewing room into the guest room, I added the binding: fully intending to hand stitch it to the back of the quilt whilst sitting with our guests over the weekend. But I didn’t… I took the weekend off, enjoying the company of our guests before spending Tuesday stitching the binding in a remarkably clean and tidy sewing room 🙂

So, my final tips and techniques gleaned from quilting this project:

  • Practice squares can take you only so far! Quilting over seams feels very different from quilting over a smooth piece of fabric – the needle can ‘stick’ and judder.
  • I repeat: Practice squares can take you only so far! The weight and bulk of a quilt slows down it’s movement causing quilting speed to change.
  • I found stitching over busy prints quite difficult – a few times I just couldn’t see how close the needle was to previous lines of stitching! In the middle of all this quilting I read a great post by Christina demonstrating her use of printed fabrics to practice fmq skills.
  • I’d definitely recommend wearing gloves with rubber tipped fingers. When I forgot to put mine on I really noticed a reduction in the control I had over the quilt’s movement and an increase in the pressure I was having to apply through my shoulders down to my finger tips.

Working to a deadline was both tough and motivating. Entering a quilt into a national exhibition was a goal I’d set myself. I posted the quilt to the organisers on Wednesday, I’m just starting to feel good about achieving this goal – it kinda took over everything and was quite draining! With reference to my word of the year, VENTURE, I’d say that designing and completing this quilt has pushed me beyond what I thought I could achieve, I’ve had to keep going, accepting imperfections, making peace with myself with regard to those imperfections. It’s been immensely satisfying and I’m really looking forward to handing my camera to someone at the exhibition and asking them to take a photo of me and my quilt 🙂

I have loads of projects crowding into my mind but first my weary sewing machine is going for respite care – a well deserved and rather belated service.

Linking with Myra for Finished or Not Friday and Amanda Jean for Finish It Up Friday.



Posted in Free Motion Quilting, Gardener's World Quilt, Learn, Quilt Exhibitions, Quilt Labels, Quilting Techniques, Venture | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Tips-as-we-go quilting (5)

My writing has fallen behind my doing! Here is a brief catch-up of the past four days. On Friday I bit the bullet and began free motion quilting leaves. This went better than hoped and I continued to stitch leaves on Saturday. I discovered that all that muscle memory stuff fades when I get tired – I had to stop when the leaves lost their shape and I was struggling to make decisions about where to start the next leaf etc.

On Sunday I fully intended to return to the sewing room but after a morning in Church the lure of sunshine at the allotment won and I wheeled the tool-laden barrow along the road to the little site behind our local food store. Plenty more leaves to deal with but these could just be heaped in a pile – no arranging required!


Here’s my little plot with the ASDA loading bay close by – weirdly I can get so engrossed in the allotment work that all the noise of reversing lorries and the raised voices of the warehouse guys doesn’t disturb me at all!

8am Monday morning I sat down at the sewing machine and got out my practice sandwich to do a five minute warm up. Oh! Boy! What a disaster! All over the piece were skipped stitches.


You can see the needle holes where the needle has gone through the fabric layers but not captured the bobbin thread, causing the long, skipped stitches.

I ran through the check list – re-thread top and bobbin,  no improvement; change needle, skipped stitches a plenty; clean out bobbin race – first with little brush then with vacuum cleaner – skipped stitches continued 😦  At this point I was starting to feel desperate, running through options: try using my old machine?; ask a kind friend if I might borrow her machine?; eat a bar of chocolate? (Actually, my tummy was knotted so tight that the thought of chocolate was not welcome – that’s how bad things were!).

More than an hour had passed, my thoughts were on the deadline to complete and post the quilt and the need to do some housework in preparation for guests coming next weekend (please don’t feel guilty about this Dear Guests, I do enjoy having a clean, tidy home, guests are my motivation 🙂 ) I did take my Pfaff machine out of the sewing table and set up my, smaller, Brother for fmq. I broke a needle almost immediately! Perhaps my technique was all to pot? Next move: employ the verb ‘to google’. Here are links to two helpful posts tackling the problem of skipped stitches:

Ohh! Of course, I should have considered tension (not just my own – which was taut – but the machines too). I set up the Pfaff and fiddled about with the tension dial and the practice sandwich. Turning the tension down from 5 to 4 did the trick. Phew! But the morning was almost gone and I was feeling too ‘tight’ to begin fmq. I walked into town and did my two hour shift in the pop up shop. The shop was very quiet so I worked through a stack of scrap paper doing a bit of muscle memory work, this time drawing flower shapes in preparation for the next phase of quilting.

In the evening I switched the sewing machine back on and we got on fine – all the leaves quilted 🙂 There was even a bit of time to practice stitching a few of the flower shapes and do some pebbling – I’m considering using this as a filler in some of the path areas of the quilt.

The quilting tips for today:

  • Start each session of quilting with a few minutes on your practice sandwich – better to come across problems on this than have to pick out poor stitching on the quilt!
  • Clean out the bobbin race mid-quilting as well as at the beginning and end – that fluffy lint builds up fast.
  • I use a vacuum cleaner to suck lint out of the machine – I’m not keen on those air cans that can blow lint further into the machine. If you do use a vacuum cleaner remember to move the little needle plate screws, bobbin race and your tools well out the way before you begin 😉
  • Accept there will come a time when your brain, back and shoulders have had enough fmq for one day – be prepared to stop even if you’ve not got to where you’d hoped to be.
  • Don’t put off having a sewing machine serviced. Note to self: my next project is not more important than giving my hard worked machine the TLC it deserves! 

I thought there might be some ups and downs to share in this venture into free motion quilting… post (1), post (2),  post (3) and post (4).

Linking with Yvonne for Tips and Tutorials Tuesday and Connie for Linky Tuesday .


Posted in Free Motion Quilting, Garden, Gardener's World Quilt, Quilting Techniques, Venture | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments