Monday, 5 February 2018

Rag quilt tutorial

So what is a rag quilt? well put simply, it has exposed seams on the front of the quilt that are snipped so they go 'raggy'. Washing makes the rags even more pronounced.
This is a great pattern for a beginner, because the ragged edges hide a multiple of sins (when your squares don't quite match up!). A fun quick make.
  • Fabrics for the front - flannel, homespun and denim is a great choice for this pattern, though quilt weight cotton is also fine. I have used some gorgeous fabric by Craft Cotton Company called Dobby - there are 5 fat quarters in the bundle and I didn't use the hole bundle
  • Fabric for the back
  • Wadding
  • Thread - I chose Gutterman 40 ct thread because I want it to show!
Step 1 - cut your fabrics squares. You can make them any size you like - the wadding must simply be 1 inch smaller than the fabric squares. For mine, I cut 5 1/2 inch squares of the top fabrics and the backing fabric (using white scraps for these), and the wadding 4 1/2 inch squares. I cut 36 sets of squares making a rug measuring 27 inches x 27 inches. You can just keep adding squares to make it bigger!

Dobby range by Craft Cotton Company
Step 2 -  place your front piece face down on your table and centre the wadding on top and then add the backing piece on top.

Layer with wadding
 Pin the layers together (there ARE pins in the following picture - they just don't show up much!). You could also use a spray glue like ODIF 505 spray to hold the bits together (just be careful spraying it as you only want it on your wadding).
Make a full quilt sandwich with the front, wadding and backing, and pin
Step 3 - Quilt (optional). I marked my diagonal lines with quilters tape to keep my lines nice and straight, but you could do wavy lines, or simply not quilt at all - the choice is yours! Use your walking foot to keep all the layers together.

Quilted square
Step 4 - put your squares wrong sides together (the opposite to the usual right sides together) and stitch with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. This should run along the edge of the wadding, but don't worry if you catch the edge of it. The walking foot will help everything stay together without moving.
squares stitched together with the seams on the outside
Step 5 - stitch squares together and then sew the rows until you reach the required size. Stitch around the finished lap quilt with a 1/2 seam allowance.
Step 6 - now start cutting! Snip through all the visible seams and around the edge of the quilt, ensuring that you don't cut through the stitching.
Snipped seams

Step 7 - this quilt gets better with washing because it makes the seams fluff up even more! Popping it in the tumble dryer works even better to get a really fluffy quilt.

Washed rag quilt

Demoing the quilt on my Create and Craft show on 29th January 2018 with Dean Wilson
Now simply enjoy your new rag quilt!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Quilty pleasures - Shopping in Las Vegas

Whenever I go out of town, I have to do a quick Google search to find a local quilt shop. Well, I feel it would be rude not to sample the regional quilty goodies that can be found around the world. I feel that it is my moral duty to support the cotton farmers and fabric weavers around the world, as well as keeping the local economy going. Well that is my excuse and I'm sticking to it. So on my recent trip to the USA was just begging to be explored. I was in the states for Creativation 2018 - a craft trade show in Phoenix but I decided to stop off in Las Vegas for a few days break before heading home. So of course, out came Google!
That was how I found Sew Yeah Quilting. 3690 N. Rancho Dr. Las Vegas, NV 89130 The website says it is the biggest quilt shop in Las Vegas with 1000s of bolts, so I had to take a look.

The shop is definitely large as promised, and the staff immediately welcomed us in.

The new stock sits in the entrance to the shop, so regular customers can see what's new in before it is relocated in other areas of the shop. Everything was well laid out so you should really see the fabric designs, and it worked for my pocket too.

The selection of vintage sewing machines and sewing tables gives a nice focus point to the largest of the room. I couldn't help a closer look at these vintage beauties.

They had a nice selection of threads - mainly polyester threads in fabulous colours.
Part of the following stand is given over to bobbin threads. Here in the UK we are mainly restricted to bobbin thread in either black or white, but here they come in a ton of colours. A gorgeous purple and a vibrant pink made it into my shopping basket.
They are really spoilt here, with yards and yards of shelves, brimming with fabric goodies.

Large open spaces give the whole shop a feeling of spaciousness and allows you move easily around the fabrics. The 3 rooms in the above picture are purely devoted to batik fabrics on the bolt and pre-cuts. I have to admit to spending a fair few minutes and £s in this room.
They have a long arm quilting service too. One of these days, when I have the money and the space, one of these will be mine. Until then it is just me, my Brother and and free motion foot!

The shop specialises in Bernina sewing and embroidery machines. They even had a workshop taking place in the workrooms with a teacher instructing attendees on using their machine embroidery software.
 I had a lovely visit and I made my best efforts to spend a few dollars - and here's my humble efforts.

All in all, I had a great time in this lovely shop and I am delighted with my purchases. I don't know what I am going to make with my treasures, but I am sure to have lots of fun!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Questions to ask yourself when you choose a new sewing machine.

This is probably the most common question that I get asked on social media, and so I thought I would expand on it here.
You are thinking of investing in a new machine, so what do you ask me. That is perfectly acceptable as I demonstrate a lot of machines, but it is like asking me what colour shirt you should wear tomorrow - there are just so many options that I need more information! So here are some questions you need to ask yourself before you ask anyone else.
  1. What is your budget? You seriously need to consider what you can afford to spend on your machine. There will be no point in looking at a high end, high value machine if your pocket just wont stretch to it. You will just be setting yourself up for disappointment.
  2. what do you want to do? Buy the machine for the sewer that you WANT to be. This is a major investment and you dont want to buy a machine that you will outgrow in 6 months. Also think about how often you plan to use it; if it is an occasional machine, you may be better off with a budget machine.
  3. How many stitches do you think you will use. It is a good idea to have a selection of standard and utility stitches. You may find you'll need them as your skills increase. 
  4. Can you move the needle position? This will enable you to perfectly position your rows of stitches for the project that you are completing. It can be such a pain when you can't move the needle, but it's a definite benefit when you can.
  5. Feed Dogs. These are the teeth keeping your fabric moving smoothly through your machine. If you fancy a go at free motion stitching you'll need to disengage these teeth. Many machines allow you to drop the feed dogs,  others, you may need to cover with a plate ( usually included). I personally prefer to be able to drop them, I find the plates can catch on my fabric and restrict the free flow of the fabric through the machine.
  6. is weight/size an issue? Lightweight machines are now composed of lighter weight materials than those manufactured in previous years. For this reason, you can buy a small, compact, lightweight portable model that provides you with excellent quality sewing action, speed and durability without breaking the bank. This is fantastic news if you plan to carry your machine up a lot of stairs! Also think about the size of your proposed machine. A large machine with a large throat is fantastic for working on a large quilt, but not if you work in a small space or have a small budget. There is always a compromise to be made.
  7. extra feet - what does it come with and how much do extra feet cost? Feet to look for - If you are a quilter, a machine that comes with a walking foot, embroidery foot and a 1/4 foot is a real bonus as these can be expensive to purchase separately. If you are a dressmaker, then a blind hem foot and an overcasting foot are useful. Most machines come with a zipper foot and bottonhole foot as standard. An extension table is very useful, giving you extra work space, and a hard dust cover is a bonus, though lower value machines normally only come with a soft cover.
  8. Do you feel that you need a particular brand. It may be a good idea to think about why you are attached to this brand. Is it because it has a reputation for quality, or durability. If so, check out the warranties on some of the other brands of machines because you may be surprised. Don't assume that just because a brand is more costly, that it's actually better quality. There are bargains to be had for those who take the time to seek them out, and who are prepared to make compromises.
Finallt, read reviews. People like me have our favourites, but we do not own hundreds of machines. However, websites selling machines often have buyer reviews on them, and these can be very useful to help you decide if a machine is for you.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

All about Quilting - on a USB!

So 2017 has been a busy year, with my trip to Nepal in April and a hugely successful stand at the 2017 Festival of Quilts. I have had 2 cover booklets with Quilt Now magazine, and now I am preparing to launch my own Quilting USB! I could not be more excited!

So what is this I hear you cry?

Well I have been working with THREADS inkjet printable fabrics for nearly a year now, and what fun we have been having. This amazing product allows you to print onto top quality fabrics from your home machine. It is simply amazing stuff, and it is available in 7different fabrics (4 silk options and 3 cotton options). For me, it has really been about the Cotton Poplin, and I was just desperate to make a quilt with it. So when THREADS approached me about making a USB introducing people to the joys of designing your own fabrics at home, I couldn't resist it!

And so here we are, after a couple of months of hard graft, waiting for the launch of the THREADS inkjet printable fabrics - Designer Series USB - Introduction to Quilting with Sarah Payne. I know it sounds a bit of a mouthful, but it is the first in the Designer Series, and I am the designer :) 

So this USB will be launching on Create an Craft this Saturday (16th September) at 2pm (times subject to change etc!) with a 1 hour show so I can show you what we have to offer you!

There will be many printable elements and how-to-videos including:

100 printable background designs (to create bespoke fabric with different colourways), hand-chosen and curated by me.
8 printable templates

  • 4 sizes of square and 4 sizes of right angle triangle shapes in which to create a multitude of quilt blocks

Step-by-step instructions of how to make quilting projects (lap quilts, table runners, cushions).
Printouts of sewing instructions for all 20 blocks as PDFs
20 different alternative quilt layouts for your blocks
A4 paper size and US letter size templates
Video tutorials (over 2 hours with me in your sewing room!):

  • How to print onto THREADS inkjet printable fabrics
  • Washing demo
  • How to put together blocks
  • ‘Quilt as you go’ technique
  • Layering and quilting – with different examples of quilting
  • Binding
  • Finishing a block as a cushion
  • How to make a table runner

So there is lots to watch, print out and to learn! This has been a real label of love, and I am hugely excited and cant wait to share it all with you. 
Here are some sneaky pics!

Vintage style rose cushion
Birds of Paradise quilt - using the flamingo, toucan and hummingbird fabrics
A selection of projects from the USB
All of these items have been created using just 2 shapes - squares and triangles in 4 different sizes. You can download them from the USB as templates, or use a rotary cutter and ruler to cut them. The fabrics are all printed from the 100 designs on the USB, and you can add personal photographs to your projects too (like I have with the Zoo cushion in the last image). So please tune in on Saturday and take a look!

You can find us on:
  • Sky 674
  • Freeview 23
  • Virgin 748
  • Freesat 813
  • Apple TV
  • Amazon Fire

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Reaching Poon Hill and heading down again!

Here is part two of my Nepalese adventure - now almost 2 months ago but still very present in my memory!

7th April - Poon Hill
So today we go up to the highest point of our trek. An early rise at 3.30am was planned - and partly executed until torrential rain sent us all back to bed for an hour. There was no point climbing up for sunrise if the sun wasn't planning to make an appearance! As it was, the gods smiled on us and the rain abated so off we trotted about 5am, with what seemed like an army of climbers, up the steep narrow path with nothing but our head torches to light our way. This seemed the hardest part so far, and I was devastated when about 15 minutes in Deborah was struggling to breath and decided to head down again. I was torn - should I descend with my friend and not make it to the top, or leave her in the capable hands of our guides and struggle upwards. When she threatened me with physical violence if I didn't make it to the top, my mind was made up. I would do it for both of us. So in the cold, dark, wet early morning I just put one foot in front of the other and tried not the think about what the altitude seemed to be doing to me. 3210m is high - especially for a Fenland Frog (as Damon our guide named us both!) Training for altitude is impossible when you live on the edge of the Fens and a speed bump is the highest point for miles around. But with the encouragement of Caroline and Mark, (otherwise forever know as " 1 More Hill Mark!) I kept going to the top. We made it just before 6am, and I have to say it was very emotional. Even more so when I said to one of my fellow trekkers that I was gutted for Deborah - and she said "don't be - Damon went back for her". I ran to the edge and there she was. My sidechick! We had made it. Just thinking It makes me cry even now, sitting at home in the warm with a nice cup of tea and access to flushing toilets!
So that might go some way to explaining the next couple of video clips. I just couldn't stop crying! But I made sure I took a bit of sewing with me! (I hope the links open up in YouTube as they are too big for my blog software!)

And here is the picture to prove we did it. I am so proud of all of us - including the 3 who didn't quite make it to the top. You were with us in this picture. Well Done Dream Challenges!

Then we started downwards again. We had 'peaked', though if I thought this was going to be easier I was completely wrong. We walked down 2000 m in 7 hrs, and I really wished I was dead. My feet were well and truly ruined, and I think I spent the last few hours of the ordeal quietly crying to myself. Irregular, steep, slippery, relentless steps for hours and hours are enough to dampen any humour. The hail didn't help!

One of the Sherpas actually held my hand for last 1/2 hour because I was physically done in - well and truly. My feet were shredded and my ankle was in pretty poor shape. The steps of Ghorepani are famous - or infamous - and we passed many who were going UP them. I am really not sure which way is worse!
Here he is - once I stopped crying!
Im not sure that smile reaches my eyes!
That night in the camp at Tirkedunga we improved our mood by adding gin, crisps and chocolate. We had certainly earned it!

A Nepalese Diet!

Dr Mark took a look at the offending ankle and diagnosed ligament damage (Tibialis Posterion Tendonitius with the lateral collateral ligament inflames) All I know is that it bloody hurt! But there is not much that can be done apart from compress, ice (or a bucket of cold water) and heaps of pain relief (which doesn't do much for the tummy!). Irena played mum and oversaw the Sherpas filling a big bucket with cold water - they found it hilarious! 

Limping constantly was given me a wonky gait and so the other foot is now a mass of blisters. Oh joy! I felt so rough that I decided to skip dinner and go straight to bed. The only problem with that was that our support staff were concerned about me, so kept checking on me every few minutes! This was very kind, but the bedroom door opens onto, well, the open, so it's chilly if you don't close it. And door handles are unknown - so you either bolt it from the inside (meaning Deborah can't get in) or you wedge it shut with a walking pole. This means every kindhearted visitor dislodges the pole when they check on you, and you have to get out of your warm snugly sleeping bag, walk across the cold concrete floor on feet that want to kill you, and wedge it closed again. Patience was really starting to wear thin.

8th April 
This is the day we walked out! There was a real sense of having achieved something monumental that day. We would be walking through the foot hills, at a much gentler altitude so the problems we may have had with breathing were gone. The weather was beautiful, the pace slower and the scenery stunning. We even had time to stop and paddle in the Bhurungdi River. I was very conscious of this being an ending of a very long journey that started back in 2016 when this was a germ of an idea, and I felt a little sad - though I was keen to be reminded of what a hot shower and a flushing toilet looked like! As we left Annapurna conservation area I knew that this was one of those adventures that changes you, and that this really was a dream challenge. Despite everything, I was walking out!

Walking out again!

So there you have it. The full tale of a (not quite so) fat bird climbing a mountain. But I didn't do it alone. Our guides and Sherpas were amazing - with Damon teasing us as Fenland Frogs, and Dawa keeping the juggernaut of our trek moving on. Caroline and Mark for their support (and to Mark for being a knight in shining armour and carrying my stuff as I had my snotty meltdown), for Jenny and Andy checking on me at every stop after they saw how hard I found it on the Malvern training trek. To Jenny and Ann for their conviction that I could do it, even when I wasn't sure I could. To Lin and Brigitte for putting up with my snoring (snoring is amplified at altitude and I think I made the earth move!). To Kathy for making me laugh so hard I nearly weed myself at the German Bakery! To Irena for bathing my poor ruined feet and generally being my mum - and her husband Iain for keeping us on track the day we thought we were lost. To all of those on the trek that made us laugh, or just kept each other going in some pretty rubbish moments. 
Most of all to Deborah - who's strength and good humour kept me going when I felt mine might desert me. Even before I went, when I had wobbles of apprehension, and personal stuff nearly got in the way, she never let me give up, and wouldn't accept that I couldn't do it. We did it Sidechick xxx!

We did it Sidechick!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Sampler exhibition in Cambridge

Having some time off on a Bank holiday weekend is a thing of pleasure.  So when I get one I like to make the most of it, especially when the weather promises to be good. Never one to miss out on a good exhibition I bundled Paul into my little Fiat with the promise of lunch and a beer and we headed south to Cambridge. My friend Patr had mentioned an exhibition of Samplers at the Fitzwilliam museum so I just had to check it out.

I have to say it was well worth the stress (and fee) of parking. There were over a hundred embroidered samplers from the museum's collection. There is a great selection from the 1600s onwards,  with interesting notes on styles, meaning and historical context.

Early samplers were worked in bands.
This whitework band sampler is dated 1663 and has the initials 'DB' embroidered on it. Who was DB I wonder?

Here is some of the needlelace cutwork on the sampler. There is a supply of magnifying glasses in the exhibition so you can really get up close to the detail. Samplers were usually worked by girls and young ladies. What skills!
By the 18th century, girls were encouraged to display their numeracy and literacy by including it in their designs.
 This one was dated 1802 and is worked by Mary Ann Crouzet as stated at the top of the piece. This is all done in cross stitch and includes a small amount of gold thread too. The work is exquisite.

I loved the pieces with motifs in it.
This was created by 15 year old Sarah Williamson in 1795. I would have been thrilled to have created something of such beauty at that age.
Not all the pieces were traditional wall hangings. There are a couple of bags included too.
This one is beautifully beaded and doesn't look 380 years old! 

Another stunning bag from the 17th century. 
A stunning pocket sampler from 1844 by Sarah Roberts.

Here are a few more pics.
Susanna Gellett in 1800.

Dorcas Haynes in 1720
M Quertier in 1799.
There was a very touching line in the notes on the wall. "For many a woman of the past, the sampler that she stitched in her youth is often the only record if her existance."  Very poignant. 

This is just a little taste of the wonders there are on display. If you get the chance, then pay it a visit before it finished in 2018.

Monday, 22 May 2017

A bit of retail therapy at the Malvern Quilt show

Well it has been a busy time since I got back from Nepal, with shows, magazine deadlines and a whistle-stop tour of Rome with my Dad. I got back on Friday, with a show on Saturday and Sunday was a day off (at last). So what did I do? I dragged a compliant Paul halfway across the country to a quilt show. Of course I did!

So a bit of retail therapy was the order of the day. I spend so much time creating samples for others that it is nice to simply get something gorgeous for me. Goodness knows when I will get around to making them - Paul was horrified when I went to about 4 different stands and said "yes, I have that but haven't made it yet!". I explained UFOs and PHDs and left it at that :)

So what did I buy?
Well my first stop is always to the stand of Kim Porter of Worn and Washed. I adore the feel of her pre-loved fabric, and she has moved into Liberty fabrics now too. So I treated myself to a Liberty cushion kit which will eventually make it's way into my Summerhouse. It's just gorgeous.

Then I brought a pattern by the phenomenal Maggie Davies - the queen of Applique! This is all hand appliqued and is another one for the holiday pile - or the 'soon to retire' pile. I love the delicate florals and the scrolls so it just had to find it's way into my basket!

Finally my love of Japanese fabrics forced to me get the "Takara" style patchwork and applique cushion kit from Euro Japan Links. Every time I see their stand one of their kits makes it into my shopping bag - and this one is just champion! I am going to hand quilt the finished cushion with the Sashiko thread once it is all sewn together. Sashiko is a decorative reinforment stitch from Japan that is simple but beautifully effective. If you haven't discovered it yet, take a look at the work of Susan Briscoe for inspiration.

So with my purchase clutched in my happy little hands I headed over to look at the quilts. The quilt entries were  beautiful, and well worth a browse through. A highlight was the quilt by my friend Moira Neal who just takes free motion embroidery to another level!

 It was tricky to get close to it with the throng of admirers gathered around it.

She won first prize, the fabric painting award AND won the overall championship too! Well done and well deserved!

This one was called "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and won a plethora of awards, including the rosette for Best Hand Appliqued quilt. Well Deserved I think. I didn't have a show guide so I am afraid I don't know who it was by, but I loved it! And the work that went into it is just mind boggling!
So a day looking at quilts - with a 4 1/2 hour round trip by car. Probably my favourite way to spend a Sunday!