Tuesday, 6 September 2016


After some comments made on my show the other night I have been contacted by a number of people offering help with my charity trip to Nepal next April. So I thought it would be a good idea to let you know what I am up to and why, plus how you can get involved. This is a long post so you may want to grab a cuppa before you begin.

What am I doing? Well I am asking myself that same question :) As someone permanently attached to my sewing machine, I have never been one for exercise or doing anything energetic. So what does a couch potato do for a challenge - why climb in the Himalayas of course! The challenge is on to trek to Poon Hill (3,210m) in the Annapurna region. The trek will take us through charming Nepalese villages where we will experience the culture of the mountain people of Nepal first hand. The challenge will be tough but the friendship and camaraderie along the way will be very special, and we are taking the challenge for very personal reasons. So why am I taking on the challenge of a lifetime?

Well, the beneficiaries of my trip are two groups. Firstly I am trying to raise £3000 for Heartburn Cancer UK who I feel saved my Dad's life. To help with that I have a just giving page where you can donate directly.

You can find my fundraising page here. Every penny helps people in the UK suffering from this terrible disease. Last Summer, and just weeks after his 70th birthday doctors found a big ugly tumour growing inside my Dad. Since then he has undergone Chemo and radiotherapy and on the 25th February this year a full Oesophagectomy at Addenbrookes in Cambridge. He is one of the lucky ones – he is on the long road to recovery, and he is getting better every day. This cancer went off like a bomb in the centre of our family and we have met many brave and caring individuals – both medical personnel and fellow sufferers (some who are not going to make it or have already sadly left us).
Now Dad is coming out the other side I felt that I needed to do something to help those who are taking the same journey that we did, and to say thank you to those who helped us. So I have chosen a challenge that befits the challenges that my Dad has been through, and continues to go through. Nepal is a place that he has always wanted to visit – and now he can experience it through me.

I am funding the trip myself so every penny that you donate goes to a great cause helping those dealing with this terrible disease, and helping to prevent more people suffering.

So here is a picture I wasn't sure I would see again - Dad at 71!
But you can't travel half way round the world and not try to make a difference in the country you are visiting. As a quilter I am fascinated by other cultures sewing traditions and so I had to make a quick Google search of quilts in Nepal and came across an organisation that gives me goosebumps! Quilts for Kids is an organisation founded in 2006 to provide work for economically-challenged women and to finance education for underprivileged children in Kathmandu. It operates in an encampment of Indian street beggars located in a large field in the Boudhanath neighborhood of Kathmandu. The women of the encampment make quilts from fabric collected from humble sources, which they stitch together by hand to create works of art. The sale of a single quilt will send a child to school for a year. So of course I had to buy one! This is mine and I am so proud of it. 
It is a large quilt, and the hand stitching is delicious. Here is a shot of the back and the lovely prairie points that decorate the edges.

This was a quote from their website that touched me deeply and made me feel that I had to help! "Ours is truly a global community - stitched together with threads of compassion, kindness and creativity." Who can argue with that!

So how can you help these fantastic women in Nepal.  You can help the charity directly by purchasing a Quilt for $190 plus postage (and import duty) which will send a child to school for a year. On my part, I will be teaching these inspiring ladies a spot of English Paper Piecing once I have finished my climb, and I am taking sewing needles with me to give as a gift. I needed to choose something that wouldn't be too heavy (as we have to carry it up mountains!) and needles fitted the bill. So if you have packets of sewing needles lying around the house that you would like to rehome, then pop them in an envelope and I will take them with me to gift to these incredible women. Send me a message via my facebook page and I will send you my address to post them too. All I ask is that they aren't rusty! 

So as you can see, this challenge is personally going to be a tough one. I have lost 2 1/2 stone already as I train and prepare for the adventure, but there is stil a long way to go. Whenever I have a wobble about "biting off more than I can chew" I think about these two great causes that I am proud to be able to help and it keeps me putting one step on front of the other. I cannot believe how lucky I am to live in a country where cancer services are available and have been able to save my Dad. I know many are not that fortunate and some will not survive, but we have to continue the fight. I am also delighted to be able to help those brave women in Kathmandu who have to battle to build a better life for their children. For us here where education is taken for granted, I am reminded what a privilege that has been, and how much I want to be able to pass that on gift.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

So what is Bobbinfill anyway?

So every time I mention using Bobbinfil on one of my shows I am inundated with questions about it. So I have decided to answer them here.

What is Bobbinfil? 
It is a remarkably fine and strong polyester designed as an underthread (meaning it goes in the bobbin). Some brands are also called Underthread or Bottomline.

Why do you use it?
Bobbinfil is designed to balance top threads being sewn. It is finer than a standard thread so you can get more of it on a bobbin, meaning that you have to refill your bobbin less often. This is a godsend when you are working on large projects. The downside is that it often only comes in white or black,  though some brands have expanded their colour ranges. 

There are a number of different thread weights - some specifically designed for Embroidery Machines. I use 90wt for my Brother Innovis 90E embroidery machine and 60wt for all my sewing machines. You can experiment

Where do you buy it?  
There are 3 main brands of Bobbinfil that I have bought in the past, and there are probably more that I haven't tried. All 3 have worked beautifully for me. They are Brother, Sulky and Madeira brands but there are others available. I buy them when I see them in my local sewing shops (as a former shop owner I fully appreciate the importance of local shops and the need to support them. If you don't use them you will lose them!). I have bought them on prewound bobbins or on the reel which is my personal preference.  You can also buy on line. Like most things, a quick Google will bring up a full list of suppliers but being lazy I often resort simply to Amazon.


Tuesday, 31 May 2016

New Challenges - and a request for help!

I have been getting messages  asking if everything is 'OK' because I haven't been sharing many quilt project pictures lately. Thank you and yes I am fine! In fact I have been having a wonderfully crafty time working on projects but just can't show them yet as they are involved in my newest project. I am delighted to announce that I am the new Editor of Linen and Lace magazine. Whooo hooo! It is so exciting to be asked to create a vision for the magazine and continue offering great sewing projects for you all. This will be issue 3 of the magazie produced by Tattered Lace. As a result, most of my recent work has to be 'unveiled' at publication!

I was thinking that it would be great to get some of you involved too! If I get enough submissions I would like to add an "Ask the Expert" feature in the next edition. If you have any sewing, quilting or deep dish die questions, then please send them with your name and town (or let me know if you want them published anonymously) to enquiry@sarahpayne.co.uk and I will see what we can do about answering them in the magazine. Only the name and Town info will be published!

I also thought that it would be great to show projects from the first 2 issues of the magazine - so if you have a project that you have created from previous Linen & Lace magazines then please send a picture with a few words about it to the same address.

So if you can help, please get in touch!

Here's a sneak peak of one of the projects :)

I am so excited about continuing this fantastic magazine - now it is time to get back to my sewing machine to make up a few more projects!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

What a difference a year makes!

Well it is a year today (15th of May) since I sold my share in the shop. And what a year it has been! It was a bit frightening to let go of the safety net that was a regular place of work, regular hours and regular income, but I felt that it was time for me to move on to new challenges.  VAT returns and stock control just wasn't floating my boat and could never leave me enough time to be creative. So I held my breath and took the plunge. 

Now a year on I can reflect to see if it was the correct decision. Heck yes it was. Since then I have hardly stopped. I have had the opportunity to visit the Houston Quilt festival and Quilt Market, meet fabulous people at the Great Craft Extravaganza, Winter Crafting and Crafting Live, work closely with creative people across the craft industry and educated more crafters through TV. 

Linen and Lace Magazine is now a big part of my life (we are working hard on Issue 3) and I have just finished 10 projects for the Prima Makes magazine. I love the creativity that brings. I even get to be Artist In Residence this month in Winchester. Sometime a leap of faith is all that you need to start a enormously exciting and rewarding period in your life.

I am hugely greatful to all of you who have supported me over the last year, Paul, my family, friends and crafters who continue to watch and comment. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A place to create - welcome to my studio!

Goodness me I hadn't realised how long it has been since my last post. This year has been flying past at breakneck speed and I have been hanging on :)

So what have I been up to? Well I have continued doing shows for Create and Craft where I get to share knowledge and tips with a huge number of people at a time. It is great fun and it is amazing how many people I meet out and about who have started stitching after watching the shows.

I have also been working on magazine projects this month - with 10 Christmas projects just completed for Prima Makes magazine, projects for Create and Craft club magazine currently filling up my work table and 20 projects for the next Linen and Lace magazine sitting on my design wall. Crikey! I feel tired just talking about it.

I often get asked how I can make so many projects and still get some sleep? Well the answer is that I have a fully optimised work space. It is a room where I can go and work, but once I have finished I can shut the door and get on with other jobs. Being able to leave jobs half way through without having to put it away saves time and effort - two savings which make a big difference over time.

So here are some pictures of my sewing haven! It is a double bedroom with en suite which is hidden away on the top floor of our house which makes it very toasty this time of year.

The long kitchen work surface hides storage behind curtains. The shelves are filled with boxes keeping oodles of sewing loveliness in check. I use a planner table for my sewing machine and main cutting mat, with another mat on the work surface for easy photography. The laptop is constantly on as I try to keep on top of the paperwork :)
I spend a lot of time in this room - and therefore the TV and the kettle (hiding behind the laptop) are also vital pieces of equipment. The quilts on the back set of shelves are samples for shows (the rest are out of site in the hallway) and the fabrics in the boxes below are fabrics from suppliers for samples and demonstrating. I keep these separate from my own stash to avoid temptation :)

So here is the real stash....

Should I be worried??? My lovely Paul helped with the thread storage and it reduces the danger of buying duplicates because all the colours are visible. Once I sorted out my threads I found I had about 20 different spools of white thread - this way I can make sure I use them before I go and buy another one.

Here is my design wall pinned to the wall behind my door. It lets me display my quilt designs as I work on them. It helps me choose quilt layouts and play with colour placement, as well as see the whole design come together in front of me.

So there you are - this is where I spend much of my days, though it doesn't always look this tidy!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Getting scrappy in 2016

I'm not a great one for new year resolutions.  They invariably fall by the wayside once the empty party wine glasses are cleared away. But this year I have made a quilty resolution to get my scrap addiction under control. Like many sewists, I hate waste and so save the smallest pieces. Now is the time to use them up!
So my challenge has begun, and with two sewing machine 4 day deals already this month , I aim to spread the word. So I started with a scrappy book cover using the fancy stitches on my trusty Brother FS130QC. 

This is the journal cover version that I made on air over a number of shows using scraps of Floral Demin fabric by Craft Cotton Company and contrasting red fancy stitching. A perfect gift for someone special! 
These are my scrap boxes full of scraps - and these are the boxes I am planning to empty! I showed these on my Tuesday show - and many viewers are posting pictures to my face book page with their personal versions. How exciting!

But because it is me - there needs to be a quilt in there somewhere - so I have started my own Scrappy Star Quilt. I designed the block myself and use the foundation piecing method to create the star. This star is made from 4 smaller blocks. These will then be stitched together with 1 inch wide strips. I cant wait to get a bit of free time to get on with it! 
So this may be one new year resolution I can keep :)

Monday, 23 November 2015

My Antique Quilt

On my recent visit to Houston for the quilt festival, I happened by a stall called Mulberrry Lane Quilts covered in a stunning array of antique quilts.
I couldn't resist pausing, and underneath a pile of gorgeous quilts I found my new favourite thing - my now named 'Houston Scrappy Quilt'! It was love at first sight - and I really couldn't resist!

Very little is known about my new acquisition! It was delivered in a battered suitcase by a man to Mulberry Lane Quilts at a show in a sorry state. He thought it was made by his great Aunt - but didnt know any more. Carol - the antique quilt guru - thinks the fabrics used date it to about 1920 with some being older than that. This suggests that much of the fabric was preworn.

Those lovely guys at Mulberry Quilts worked their magic on what sounded like a stinky, grubby  bundle with their special cleaning and preserving process, and brought forth this gorgeous crisp clean quilt that looks almost brand new. It shows its age in some places, with some wear to the binding, and one of the fabrics in particular has not fared too well. But then I don't expect that I will be looking so so wrinkle free once I am nearly 100 years old!
 A bit of binding damage - though this appears to be single layer binding rather than the double we often use so it will alway be subject to more wear and tear.

Slight damage on some of the blocks - but this just makes me love it even more!

This is completely hand made - and the stitches are so delicate. It is all hand pieced and hand quilted - and when I look at the quality of these stitches I get a little catch in my throat. Thinking of the time and care that went into these stitches all those years ago - and now they have made their way into my home. It is a shame that this unknown person put all that care into this piece of work but never signed it. Did they think that this was 'just' a quilt, that it wasn't important? They probably never imagined that it would last long after they were gone, or that it would travel half way around the world. Though to be fair, if it were signed and dated I probably couldnt have afforded it.

 The block design is so simple, and yet so delicious!

Detail of the hand quilting in the sashing. It is very faint because it is white thread on white fabric but it is so neat!!!!

I have plans for this quilt - I want to make a replica in modern fabrics and you will probably see it on a future Create and Craft show! Who knows what the next stage of this amazing quilt will hold!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Keeping Busy and Out of Trouble!

I feel really guilty that I have missed posting in September and October completely! Where does the time go?

Well it has been busy! The biggest thing since my last post was my trip to Houston, Texas for Quilt Market followed by The International Quilt Show. My what a feast!

So that was almost 10 days of quilty loveliness.

I hope to share a few pictures as the weeks go by. But here is a little taste of Houston!

Between the two shows I had a day to myself - and so I took a cab across town to NASA Johnson Space Centre. For a science geek like me it was AWESOME! This is the obligatory space shuttle selfie - and Yes, that's really really big!!!!

Of course I balanced it out with a trip to HobbyLobby on the way back for a bit of a fabric fix!

I see 2 new dresses in my future!

I was very lucky with the weather that day because it was the only time I really saw the sun. A hurricane on my first weekend and tornadoes on my second meant that my game attempts at keeping dry with a brolly nearly resulted in a comedy 'Mary Poppins moment' so I just put up with the frizzy hair and soggy clothing and got on with it!

But the quilts more than made up for it. There were stunning things to look at as far as the eye could see! This one was one of my favourites. It is called Bouquet of Hearts by Dora Tovar Pachnowski from Lack Jackson, Texas. It is hand appliqued and all the parts  are made up of heart motifs. I loved it! The picture really doesn't do it justice.

Here is a closer picture showing a bit more detail - including the lovely free motion feathers in the blue border. Stunning!
Another quilt I loved was this quilt called Landstriche - Swaths of Land by Brigitte Morgenroth from Kassel in Germany. The clever use of colours takes the humble log cabin to new heights! How very clever.

I will keep sharing more pictures that I took during my trip - and hopefully you will enjoy looking at them as much as I did! 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Events just keep coming!

Once I sold the shop I really wasn't sure whether work was going to flow to my door, or form a small puddle at the end of the garden. As it turned out, it came gushing forth in a way that was both exciting and terrifying . It is gratifying to know that all those hours sewing and working silly hours was going to pay off. Now I finally get to live my dream - teach all over the place!

So the first big event I have attended this year was the Festival of Quilts where I was demonstrating a fantastic new range of fabric cutting dies created by the amazing papercrafting company Tattered Lace. This new range of Linen & Lace deep dish dies are certainly making an impact, and I have had a brilliant time introducing them to quilters at the NEC. I hope to be able to show more of you at the WI Centenary Fair in Harrogate in September and through shows on Create & Craft.

I will also be paying a return visit to Harrogate in October when I am thrilled to be invited to teach workshops for the Great Create show. This is the Fully Kitted English Paper Piecing Pincushion I will be teaching on Friday 2nd October at 11.30am - 1pm & 1.30pm til 3pm. So if you fancy giving EPP a try without the hassle, then book a place and enjoy a bit of light sewing!

I will also be teaching my Vintage Button Brooch workshop at 9.30am - 11.00am on the same day - so there will be much dashing around between sessions. Again the class is fully kitted, so you don't need to worry about bringing anything with you - except your creativity!

I also have a few more classes coming up at Bee Crafty - with my simple Machine Embroidered bag class on Saturday 22nd August.

You could also join me on this fun Freeform Class on Friday 16th October where you will learn design techniques to help you create your own free form quilt designs.

So as you can see there is plenty there to keep me busy :)

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

English Paper Piecing Tutorial

I have really got into hand sewing in general over the past few years, and now I am totally in love with English Paper piecing.

A traditional type of quilting that is certainly making a come back - EPP is often a starting point for new stitchers because it is simple and extremely portable. A pile of hexagons or diamonds stuffed in a plastic folder take up no space at all in a travel bag - and is my holiday project of choice! In fact - it makes me a far more sociable stitcher even at home because I can stitch in front of the TV instead of tucked away in my sewing room.

This is a tutorial to make a small block which you can then turn into a pin cushion. You can omit the last stage and simply applique it onto a background and use it as a block!

It is a fabulous way of using up all those scraps - and this little lot is all made with left over Tilda bits and pieces. Why waste a single inch???

  • 19 paper hexagons
  • 6 inch square of fabric for pin cushion backing
  • Scraps of coordinating fabric (4 x 5 inch squares from Spring Lake Tilda Charm pack were used for this sample)
  • Handful of stuffing
  • Threads – contrasting for basting and a matching thread for sewing together
  • Needle
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Paperclip

Make the hexagons

You can buy precut paper pieces or cut your own from recycled paper. Cut your fabric pieces at least ¼ inch larger on all sides than the paper piece. This extra fabric will be folded over the paper pieces to make a hexagon exactly the same size (see Fig 1).

 Next, baste your fabric around the paper. Use a paperclip to keep the first fold in place and then gently fold the fabric edge over the paper template. (fig 2)

Tie a big knot in the end of a contrasting thread (so you can easily see to remove it later) and place a stitch on the fold. Keep the thread taut as you stitch the corners – you want to keep the fabric tight to the template. (See fig 3). You can buy fabric glue sticks that remove the need for stitching but I don't really have any experience of these.

 Continue folding and stitching all the way around your hexagon until all the sides are secured. Fig 4

  Baste 19 hexagons in total and lay them out as shown in figure 5

 Now you are ready to begin sewing the shapes together. Take two hexagons and put them right sides together. Then, using a small whip-stitch in a matching thread, sew the pieces together. Be careful to just catch the very edge of each fabric piece with your needle. You don’t want to sew through the paper templates.

Continue sewing all the hexagons together, one seam at a time. The stitches should not be visible from the front (fig 7).

 Once you have sewn all the hexagons together, press the blocks to set them in place. Carefully remove the basting stitches and take out the papers to use again. 

Pin Cushion

To turn your block into a pin cushion, place the block and the backing fabric right sides together. Do not trim the backing fabric yet. Sew all the way round the block (a sewing machine will stitch a good strong seam).  The trim the backing to be slightly larger than the hexagon block (fig 8).
Cut a small hole in the centre of the backing fabric and turn the whole thing through the hole. Poke out the corners and press again. Stuff, and stitch the hole up. Now add pins!

EPP as blocks

These are all hexagon and 60 degree diamond templates appliqued onto a backing fabric so that they can be used on a variety of different projects. They would make stunning quilt blocks or bordered to make larger cushions.

Start now and you will have a fine stash of them to give away for Christmas presents - all made with the little bits we would normally throw away!