Fresh Project, New Sharps

Starting a shiny new project can be so energising and exciting! It’s taken a while to get my latest one underway but finally there are some blocks on the design wall 🙂


I’ve read how lots of quilters celebrate ending a project by tidying their sewing space, dusting the lint out of their machine and replacing the needle. I like to do these things too. Yesterday I began the new project in a relatively tidy room, with all evidence of previous projects tidied into scrap baskets and stash bins. After clearing the fluff out of the bobbin race I changed the needle on my machine and even replaced the blade of my rotary cutter. Again, that age old question, ‘Why wait so long to change the blade?’. Cutting with the new one was so pleasurable, ‘knife through butter’ and all that, it even sounded nicer!

Collection of sharpsI keep all my used sharps in their original containers in a little plastic box, always wondering just how to dispose of them responsibly? I know a young man who works in the environment department of our local council and I finally remembered to ask his advice whilst serving him coffee after a Sunday morning church service. He informed me that all the non-recyclable waste from our area is incinerated.

After collection, all of the rubbish from Basingstoke and Deane is taken to the Chineham Energy Recovery Facility (ERF). The ERF is capable of processing 90,000 tonnes of waste per year and recovers heat energy from the waste to produce steam. This is used to generate up to 8MWs of electricity, supplying the National Grid with sufficient electricity to power more than 10,000 local homes for the life of the facility.

The advice given re. the disposal of sharps is to wrap needles, blades etc carefully – bearing in mind the safety of the refuse collection teams – and then put them in the waste bin to be incinerated. I guess different councils and districts have their own policies on safe disposal of sharps, do you know the policy in your area?

Of course fresh sharps have their dangers! Midway through a fabric cut I was distracted by a ringing telephone – a moments lost concentration and a trip to the first aid box was required!

Finger and cutter!

My word for 2017 is ‘venture’. My ventures are very tame in comparison to those of explorers and the like but none-the-less I do intend to venture beyond what I know, risking feeling uncomfortable and experiencing some failures along the way.

The venturing spirit of 2017 has so far led to me agreeing to take some more patchwork and quilting classes at my lqs (‘local quilt store’ – I know, lingo and everything :-D). The quilt examples were wrapped and delivered to Purple Stitches this morning. Do check out Viv’s website for details of classes – they are starting in less than a fortnight! Alongside the classes is the work I’ve been doing on the computer; writing class notes and formulating a style to use in the patterns I’m venturing to produce. So, venturing on the computer… here is a bit of gratuitous computering, just to show I am trying new things and learning: this is my first export image from EQ7 to my blog – Ta! Da!

soft-coloured-tube-quiltIf you are wondering about the ‘how’ of this magical transfer then here is how: in EQ7 I found the ‘export’ button in the ‘file’ dropdown box – the advice is to export as a jpeg so I took that option. Then, I thought, ‘I’ve no idea where this file has been exported to!’ Call teenage son… a few clicks later and we found the image in ‘my documents’ in a file called ‘My EQ7 – images’. My next challenge is to remember all this once said son returns to University!




And finally, I’m reading Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and being amused as all the genteel goings-on are described with Jane Austen’s usual razor sharp wit filtered through the rose-tinted vision of her rather bemused heroine. I had to check the meaning of a word I read this morning, ‘egregious’ (as defined by the Cambridge dictionary):


UK /ɪˈɡriː.dʒəs/ US /ɪˈɡriː.dʒəs/ formal disapproving

It was an egregious error for a statesman to show such ignorance.

Jane Austen used the word in describing Catherine’s reaction to a suitor, ‘…and his assertion of the offer and of her encouragement convinced her that his mistakes could sometimes be very egregious’. Hum! In the light of modern day political events maybe a word that means ‘extremely bad in a way that is very noticeable’ might just find it’s way back into common use?

Linking with Lorna for Let’s Bee Social.

Sew Fresh Quilts



Posted in Computer Software, Projects, Quilt Design, Venture, Works In Progress | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Quilting tips – continuing the learning curve

I spent much of Saturday and Sunday quilting together the layers of a lap quilt I’ve called ‘Wizard Diamonds’. So named because; 1. the pattern creates what could – at a stretch – be said to represent faceted diamonds; 2. someone likened the fabric colours to those seen at a Hogwarts Quidditch match – appropriate as I had been listening to Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince while I pieced the quilt top.


The diamond shapes and Quidditich colours of Wizard Diamonds

Anyway, back to the quilting… I took some photos as the quilting progressed with a view to sharing how I came to decide on the way to quilt this little project and the issues I encountered and learned from as I went along. It was a very dull wet day on Sunday so please bear with the use of flash in the following photos.

Two reasons for not free-motioning a meandering pattern across this quilt: 1. I still don’t feel confident enough to use fmq on a quilt that will be seen in public; 2.I wanted the quilt stitches to ‘go with’ the patchwork pattern, to be in harmony with it, even emphasise it rather than adding an unrelated pattern over the top. Using the same reasoning as in 2. I sought out several spools of thread to match the fabric colours.

I began by using the walking foot (idt system on my machine) with a mustard coloured thread to stitch in the ditch along the inner seam of the mustard border (I thought stitching this first would help stabilize the quilt sandwich, preventing puckers).I then stitched in the ditch in all the diagonal seams and around and across the centre diamonds which were formed of the mustard and magenta fabrics.


In the ditch quilting (a few out of the ditch stitches too!) across and around one of the centre diamonds.

I then switched to teal coloured thread and ditch stitched the diagonal seams and centre diamonds formed from the teal fabrics.

On a few occasions, as I was piecing the quilt top, I had experienced an optical illusion whereby the outer edges of the diamonds appeared to be curved (I suppose a bit like the curves created by the intersection of straight seams in a ‘Storm at Sea’ patchwork?). I decided to pursue that in the quilting and used a specialist technique called the ‘dinner plate method’ 😀 to mark curves on to the quilt top.


Using a dinner plate to mark curves on the quilt with a white Chaco marker.

Again I chose to use coloured threads to match the fabrics so the quilting created indented patterns on the fabrics without distracting from the patchwork pattern.

Quilting the curves with the walking foot was fairly straightforward (no pun intended!). The arc of the curves was large and the quilt itself a size that comfortably fitted through the throat of my machine. However, I couldn’t avoid the quilt top fabric being pushed around by the changing direction of the foot so there is some rippling, despite all the in the ditch, stablising stitches and the presence of basting pins.

Oh! I nearly forgot to mention the pin basting of this quilt top. For the first time I used a Kwik Klip tool to close the safety pins. Can’t recommend it enough! Easy to get the hang of and saved my finger tips and nails 🙂 (And, I promise no communication or money has changed hands between me and the tool’s manufacturers!).


Pin basting is a whole lot more comfortable with a Kwik Klip tool.

The final section of the quilt to be stitched was the wide outer border. Thoughts on this included: stitching a series of wavy lines along the length of each border – idea rejected as I felt the border needed a more formal quilt pattern to be in-keeping with the strong geometric patchwork; marking a formal border using a stencil – idea rejected as I didn’t fancy fiddling about getting a stencil pattern to fit along the borders and around the corners; using the ‘dinner plate method’ again – idea accepted because easy to mark and the curved lines would be both geometric and compliment the curved lines already stitched in the quilt centre.

I marked simple curves on the borders and stitched a straight line of stitches between each echoing the seam between the two borders. Hum! Again the nature of stitching a curved line with a walking foot definitely tugs the top fabric in all sorts of directions. I was having to keep a tight grip of the outer edge of the border fabric to stop it being pulled towards the centre of the quilt top as I stitched. Too late I realised I should have sewn ‘stay stitches’ around the edge of the border before quilting. Instead, I added the stay stitches once the quilting was done to help stop the binding distorting the top and creating wavy edges. This did help a lot. On reflection I should also have done a few more lines of quilting in the border to help draw-in the border fabric, again reducing the risk of the quilt edge not lying flat.

Stay stitches 1/8th inch inside the edge of the quilt top

The stay-stitches also helped when it came to trimming and squaring up the quilt prior to adding the binding. Having a border seam also helps in the trimming process. I use a 6½” x 24½” ruler to trim, lining up horizontal and vertical lines on the ruler with the inner border seams to act as consistent guides as I trim all the way round the quilt.


In conclusion my tips gained from quilting ‘Wizard Diamonds’ are:

  • Spend time looking at a quilt top – ask yourself, ‘Do the quilting lines need to echo the patchwork or add an entirely fresh pattern to the whole?’
  • Choose thread colours (and weight) with care, threads can add to/detract from the finished look of a quilt.
  • Pin basting is much more comfortable using a Kwik Klip tool!
  • Dinner plates make great templates!
  • Stay-stitching the outer edge of a quilt top is a worthwhile exercise.

‘Wizard Diamonds’ – first finish of 2017

Linking with Stephanie and Yvonne for Tips and Tutorials Tuesday.


Posted in Marking Quilting Patterns, Modern quilts, Quilting Techniques, Rulers | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Rainy day round up

We’ve had a variety of weather conditions over the past week. Today grey skies and persistent rain lend themselves to an easy paced afternoon sat in a well-lit armchair 🙂


Slow Sunday Stitching armchair 🙂

My latest project has pushed along at a pretty fast pace (for me). I spent my sewing time on Friday and Saturday machine quilting. I chose to change threads to match the colour of the fabrics as I stitched so there are quite a few thread ends to slip under the surface of the quilt top – hence my linking with Kathy at Slow Sunday Stitching. The binding for this quilt is all prepared so I’ll need to make a quick return to the sewing machine to attach that before settling back in the armchair for the final hand stitching.


Label attached, note some of the many thread ends to be hidden…

I do like to attach a label to the back of my quilts (see this post for how I make labels and a bit of the history behind quilt labels). Carole at ‘From My Carolina Home’ wrote this week about the importance of  ‘Labeling Quilts and Keeping Records’. She used the experience of quilts being stolen to hi-light the importance of using labels in such a way that they become a security feature as well as providing information about the heritage of the quilt.


A robin enjoying the opportunity to feed inside the ‘cage’

Earlier this week we had a sprinkling of snow and a taste of freezing temperatures. Ideal conditions for testing a purchase made from the RSPB shop; a ‘cage’ to prevent large, ground feeding birds hogging the feed put out to attract smaller birds into the garden.It worked a treat, with robins, dunnocks, starlings and a slim, female, blackbird getting through the mesh to the feeder while bemused woodpigeons made themselves dizzy walking round and round the outside! RESULT!

As well as Carole’s post about quilt labels, I have collected other articles and tutorials on my Pinterest board, ‘Pins of the Week’ including a post by Melanie which helped me make the distinction between goals and challenges; a heart-warming post from Beth about her experience of stepping beyond her sewing room into a quilt guild meeting; and Ardelle’s tips on marking a quilt design accurately.

Hoping you find God’s peace in whatever you are doing this Sunday.



Posted in Bird Watching, Garden, Works In Progress | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Design wall dilemmas

I’m in the process of designing a little quilt top. Before Christmas I played around on my newly acquired EQ7 software and bought half metre lengths of four Kona Solids to put my design into fabric. This past week I’ve pieced and stitched together nine blocks using the ‘tube’piecing method.


One block made from four strip pieced units

I played around on the EQ7 a bit more and came up with an idea for a border…


EQ7 design with border

This morning I cut and stitched the inner 1¾” magenta border around the blocks.


Looking good, I thought…

I made twenty-four 3″ diamond in a square blocks. I stitched these to alternate plain blocks and put the whole lot up on the design wall. Hum! I just didn’t see the same effect I’d got from looking at the computer design.

The design wall version didn’t work – I think the diamonds in the border took attention away from the central blocks and there didn’t seem to be anywhere for my eye to rest. I tried mocking up a narrower border between the central blocks and the diamond borders – a bit better but still not right. I found it interesting that the computer designed border I liked didn’t translate well into a fabric ‘hardcopy’. I shall have to build in an expectation that there will be instances of ‘back to the drawing board’, allowing a project to evolve both in the software and on the design wall.

After trying various ideas on EQ7 and on the design wall, I’ve settled (for now at least) with a narrow first border in mustard, surrounded by a broad border in the magenta. I wonder what I shall do with those unused diamond in a square border strips?


Change of plan, two plain borders and some ‘orphan’ border strips!


On the design wall: A narrow mustard border inside a broad magenta border.

This evenings job will be to unpick this mornings magenta border from the central blocks and try the narrow mustard border… Only trouble with this plan is I don’t have enough of the magenta fabric to make a broad border… Another trip to the fabric shop…

My word for this year is ‘venture’. After one week I feel: challenged as I venture into designing, accepting that not all my ideas are going to work and may result in some lengthy unpicking (ho!hum!); happy that venturing back into free motion quilting practice has brought some unexpectedly positive results – my confidence is growing; willing to accept that  many ventures come with a medium to long term time frame – giving opportunities to practice patience and persistence 🙂

I may have mentioned I have a cold (see yesterdays post all about the common cold!)? Today I missed the monthly craft group I help to run. It was definitely best to keep my sneezing and coughing at home but I missed seeing the ladies and catching up on their Christmas and New Year news.

Linking with Judy for some inspiration at Design Wall Monday.

Allison (drowning in a sea of balmy tissues!)

Posted in Computer Software, Learn, Modern quilts, Projects, Quilt Blocks, Quilt Design, Venture, Works In Progress | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Musings on the common cold and buying software!

Doh! It had to happen sooner or later, I have picked up a cold virus. The all-to-common common cold! Apparently adults will succomb to the viruses between 2 and 5 times a year whilst children will catch a cold between 7 and 10 times in the same period. The website of the Common Cold Centre Research Unit, Cardiff University has some interesting information about the common cold:

The common cold viruses are not spread by contact such as kissing but appear to be spread by large particles expelled at close range by coughs and sneezes, and by contaminated fingers that pass the virus to the nose and eye.

Your fingers can easily become contaminated with viruses by touching door handles etc. in public places. You may then touch your nose or eye and infect yourself. Tears from the eye drain via a duct into the nasal cavity and when we touch our eyes with contaminated fingers we pass viruses into the nose.3

How to avoid catching a cold

Become a hermit. If you are in contact with other people you are likely to get a cold as the viruses are so common.

Hand washing may help

Since cold viruses can be passed from person to person by hand contact or by touching contaminated surfaces such as door handles you can help prevent infection by washing your hands. Home studies have shown that hand washing can reduce the spread of common colds within the family4

When am I most infectious?

The incubation period for a common cold is usually around two days before symptoms start. You are most infective when you have the early symptoms of sneezing, runny nose and cough. The viruses replicate in the cells lining the nose and they are coughed or sneezed out in droplets of mucus.

We can also spread the virus on our fingers when we contaminate them with secretions from the nose. In order for you to spread the infection you need to have close and prolonged contact with other people and to cough or sneeze on them or pass on secretions from your nose via your hands.

So, we won’t avoid all the cold viruses going around but we can help ourselves and others by washing our hands and not touching our faces! I’m still bemused knowing that many of the uncomfortable symptoms we suffer with a cold are not actually caused by the pesky virus but by our own immune system! See for a description of what happens when a virus settles down in the back of our throats.

Despite my sufferings (I mean really, am I milking it or what?) I did enjoy a walk yesterday. After a visit to Viv at Purple Stitches (sale now on!), I stepped out for home via the shopping centre and John Lewis’. There I bought the most expensive scratch card ever! I have been using my laptop to blog but until now have not had any word processing software. I have recently installed EQ7 on the laptop with a plan to transfer my designs from there into written patterns; the time had come to invest in Word (the wordprocessing system with which I am familiar). In the shop I searched out the software section selected a card from the rack and took it to the sales counter. Buy Microsoft Office Home and Student 2016, 1 PC, One-Off Payment Online at johnlewis.comHaving paid I expected the sales assistant to reach into a cupboard and produce a box with a disc or at least a memory stick for me to take home. Nope! He just handed me the card, politely asking if I’d like a bag! It was only then I realised the card had a silvery scratch strip on the back! Not being used to 3 figure spending I was a bit disappointed to be walking home with just a piece of cardboard! Thankfully later in the day teenage son offered reassurance and patiently helped me install the programme (I got to do the scratching to reveal the installation number).

Feeling grateful for a quiet Sunday and a plentiful supply of soft, balm impregnated tissues 🙂


Posted in Computer Software, Learn | Tagged , , | 6 Comments