Friday, 31 August 2012

New Toys...

When I started my Hexy MF quilt along, Katy from Fat Quarterly suggested all sorts of new sewing toys!

I bought most of them as I had not used them before and I thought it would be a worthwhile investment. Some of the them have been a success... others I am not sure I will use again....

Everyone is different so I thought I would share my thoughts on the things I have tried out:

Sewline Glue Pen

I love this glue pen. It is easy to use and really does work. The down side is that you have to use a lot making so many hexagons, which means they run out very quickly... I have found that I need a buy refills too quickly, so whilst I love the glue I have returned to the traditional method of attaching the paper - needle and thread!

If you want to try it out Pollyanna Patchwork has them and they are super fast with delivery!

Wonder Clips

I got these at the Festival of Quilts a couple of weeks ago. Katy recommended using them to help when attaching the fabric and paper hexagons. I tried this, but found the clips heavy and bulky whilst I was sewing... But I have been using them for the next step of building the flowers:

They work really well to keep everything in place. I also used them to help when I was binding my new quilt:

I got mine from Creative Grids at the Festival, but they have them online too.


I was also introduced to Aurifil 50/2 thread, which has changed the way I work completely! I have bought this thread in a number of shades and it is now the only thread on my sewing machine!

It is amazingly versatile - it pieces, appliques, hand pieces and quilts.... perfect!

The best range is at Quilt Direct, who are fantastic at getting them out fast!

I hope I have given you some inspiration... what new toys have you tried that worked well?

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Quilt Along - Progress!

Awhile ago I started my first quilt along - the Hexy MF quilt along.

I have never had a go at English paper piecing before so I was very excited to give it ago, especialy as part of a quilt along - another first for me!

The fabrics I am using are from the fabulous Lucie Summers and her Summerville range for Moda.

I have been quietly working away and managed to put together 20 ish flowers:

They are looking lush!

I am really enjoying piecing them in quiet times when watching TV or in my sewing classes on Thursday - the girls are quilting their quilts so need little input from me!

I have also used a few new bits of sewing equipment with varying success... will let you know my thoughts on them!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Not dreading September!

For the first time in 3 years I am looking forward to the Autumn!

Whilst running Funky Diva Designs I used to spend this time of year mentally preparing and buying in supplies for stock building.

The long haul for Christmas would be begin now - promoting, booking fairs and taking orders.

Every year I sat eyeballing September praying that I would get orders and that I would get those orders fulfilled!

2010 was a nightmare with snow preventing postal deliveries of supplies, 2011 was frantic with teaching and orders...

This year having shut Funky Diva to focus on teaching, I am breathing easy knowing that I no longer need to stress about those things!

Don't get me wrong, I have a frantic teaching schedule working in locations across the County right up to mid December. But the big difference is that I am not trying to juggle teaching, making and kids!

Once I pack up a class I am free to chill out with the boys until the prep for the next class is needed.

I will be introducing you to some fabulous hand crafted site for Christmas inspiration tho. So keep your eyes peeled for the blog posts and if you want to be included do drop me a line!

Monday, 27 August 2012

When to start

Yesterday my gorgeous 6 year old son went onto my sewing machine for the 3rd time.

This prompted a couple of questions on Twitter about starting children on sewing machines.

In my experience it is down to the individual child.

My middle son is a driven, high achieving child with a huge capacity for concentrating on projects. I can explain things to him and he will follow my instructions to the closely to ensure he gets it right - he doesn't do failure!

However, I have worked with other 6 year old and I wouldn't feel confident letting them on a machine. Maybe that is because they are not mine, but mostly I think it is the lack of concentration. They need to be able to concentrate to ensure they stay safe whilst using the sewing machine.

Each child is different - I teach a couple of 10 years who can't concentrate for more than 15 minutes at a time, so age isn't the biggest fact. We have to work in short stints and then eat a cookie!

I do have a few tips though if you are thinking about teaching a small person to sew:

  • If they are around 6, I suggest you stand them between your legs and work on the sewing together to begin with. It increases their confidence that you are there helping them guide the fabric - also makes you feel better!

  • If you have a machine with the capacity to go slowly, then set it to go slowish - too slow and they get frustrated, too fast and they get frightened.

  • Don't correct them as they sew. Seams are never going to be perfectly straight for children, it is a hard action to get right - watch the sewing, press the foot and keep fingers safe is a lot to do at the same time!

  • Having said that, when they have finished and you are looking at the work together, make gentle suggestions as to how they might improve.

  • Give huge amount of praise - it will make them smile like Cheshire Cats and whisk away all of the tension they may have held whilst sewing.

As you can see midi is exceptionally pleased with his patchwork - bunny has slept in it all night!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Free Motion 10/365

Yesterday got away from me and I didn't manage to make my block.

On Friday it was Cursive F's, which were quite easy and lovely to move around on the machine.

Today it is Dresden Daisies.

It is quite an easy design to learn, but hard to master!

My flowers are really uneven, but I do like the design.

I also found it easier to form the flowers with the block moving forwards and backwards as apposed to the left to right motion Leah uses - that may be my foot, it is easier to see me work in that direction.

Such a pretty design though!

Sunday Morning Reads 26/08


Waking up this morning to gorgeous clear skies and sun streaming through the curtains was delicious!

Mugs of coffee and breakfast have been consumed and work on finishing the binding on my bright quilt has resumed - only one more side to go...

Here are a couple of wonderful blogs I have discovered to give you inspiration this morning:

The first is Kiss Kiss Quilt, a blog all about quilting, fabrics and sewing projects.

Nicke's blog is collection of tutorials, glimpses of her current projects and tutorials. I love visiting other quilters and finding out what they have been working on. I also like discovering that I am not alone in my life stopping me getting everything done to deadlines - see Nicke's most recent post!

Next is Film in the Fridge is a website full of tutorials, quilts and clothing! It is a fabulous website with an abundance of ideas, fabric and scrummy photos!

In fact there are so many gorgeous things to look at it, may require more than one mug of tea! I really enjoyed checking out the numerous quilts and the current Friday Stash is gorgeous... just off to check out Denyse Schmidt at Fat Quarterly Shop

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Just can't stop...

You know that feeling when you are withing touching distance of the finishing line?

You can see the end, you can taste glory of finishing....

Last night was that kinda night!

My gorgeous quilt with the bright yellow backing was tantalisingly close to the finish line, just 5 more blocks to quilt..

I ended up sitting up until midnight machine quilting... Now midnight would be fine if it wasn't for the 5.30am wake up call I get every morning from my littlest monster..

Giving up at midnight seemed the best option when my bobbin thread ran out, so I dreamt quilts all night and got up at 6am to finish it off!

It's not perfect quilting, and it still needs binding - going to start that after a cuppa - but I am really pleased with how it turned out! It is the first time I have quilted an entire quilt with a walking foot.

Unfortunately there are some tucks in the top, but overall I am really pleased with the effect of the quilting. Plus it is a made by me, so it will never be perfect, which is the way it should be!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Free Motion 9/365

A little bit late today - I completed the block as the boys were getting into bed, but then started working on a huge, bright quilt and then end is in sight!

So today's block is called Cursive F's, which are lovely f's in rows....

It was an interesting design to quilt (sorry for the awful photo!), I experimented with straight f's, elongated f's and small f's.

I really enjoyed working with the block, but as Leah points out, it is a border design, I am not sure I put it into a quilt as the main pattern.

Trying Something New

This year I have started experimenting with other crafts.

I taught myself crochet and I have managed to make a small blanket:

It did end up being much bigger than this, but I haven't managed to sew in all the threads!

I also went on a fantastic felting course in January, which I really enjoyed! I had never tried felting before so having a go at wet felting and needle felting was really interesting.

I am really proud of my first piece of felting - it hangs on my studio wall to remind of me of the fantastic day I had!

At the Festival of Quilts I found Oliver Twist, who sell wool and felting equipment. I was so excited!

I brought everything home and finally sat down last night to have a go at needle felting.

It's nothing amazing, but I am happy with the coaster I made:

It's a starting point!
Penny Badger who taught me in January is running a long course at Brewery Arts in Cirencester and I am hoping to save enough pennies to go!
Which craft have you learnt recently that you have enjoyed?
I'd love to know!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Free Motion Quilting 8/365

Today the block is Wobbly Cosmos.

It is a pretty cool design because it works out from the centre and is like an explosion of colour!

I really like the fuchsia pink Aurifil Thread I used too!

Looks really groovy!

The Power of Post It Notes...

As part of my work as a an Adult Education teacher for the County Council, I have to prove that learners in my classes have achieved soft and hard outcomes...

It sounds incredibly dodgy I know, but soft outcomes are things like increased confidence, better social skills.... Hard outcomes are measurable skills like learning new sewing skills, making an item of clothing...

The outcomes for a course are set by the funding body, and in the case of the Council are mostly centred around soft outcomes. In lesson planning I have to show how the action of learning sewing increases self confidence..

At first, I won't lie, it was a nightmare that kept me up at night and I had schemes of work returned 3/4 times... I think I have it now...

As part of the process of assessing the learners, I have to keep logs on the learners. It is a two way process that involves me observing the learners and setting them targets, they then have to assess how they are progressing.. Sounds complicate right?

It was until I went to training on Monday and discovered that I don't have to working within the confines of the paperwork provided - I can log the learners progress in anyway I want to!

This gave me the idea of working like I used to with children under 5 - did I mention I have an NVQ Level 3 in Childcare?

In my former married life I was a childminder and I used to use post it notes to note when a child achieved a developmental milestone or managed something new so I would be able to tell their parents.

Well I found out I can use post it note to track the learners progress  - notes I make and notes they make combined to chart their progress...

You see many of the learners find reading and writing hard. Talking to people can be tough for them.. a post it note is much less scary than a huge form for them...

Post It Notes hold a lot of power!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Free Motion 6 and 7/365

Yesterday I choose my block, Overlapping Arches, and headed out to the studio to sew.

It was late after a very long day of teaching, dentist and grumpy children, so when I got down to quilting I had totally forgotten I wanted to overlap the arches and ended up with just arches...

So this is day 6. I kinda like it. It is very simple to do, but does take practise to keep the stitches even when going over the curves. Looks like lovely fish scales!

Today I re-watched the video and had another go at over lapping the arches:

I prefer the effect of overlapping the arches. The stitch length does vary though, which I have decided will improve the more I work on my free motion quilting.

On a separate note, the gloves are fantastic! I started last night without them by accident and found it all so much harder! So if you are unsure about them, don't be! They make a huge difference!

Thinking of unpicking..

I have this quilt, it is a quilt I love and I made in the wake of my second divorce - it is my divorce quilt!

I love the pinks and greens. It was a joy to make as I felt so much stress and worry drifting away every time I sat down to sew.

It is hand quilted, with a sheet for the back and polyester wadding (it was the best I could afford).

I love having it on my bed.

But as my confidence with the sewing machine and machine quilting is growing and I am looking at the quilt in a new light....

There is much potential for adding texture and the Bamboo wadding I use now would make it even more cuddly...

So the question is:

Do I unpick the quilt and redo it?

Have you ever done that?

As your skills change do you change the quilting on a quilt?

All my old quilts I wouldn't dream of changing, but this one I just kinda feel I could explore so much more.....

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A failing...

I am not a domestic goddess.....

I kinda feel the need to point it out after walking through my front door and realising the tidying/washing/ironing fairy hasn't been!

This is the pile of washing up:

I won't show the rest of the kitchen....

It's not that I don't tidy up, I just don't do it every minute of the day.

As you may know I have 3 boys. They are 10, 6 and 4. They are my world and my life revolves around them. I am their rock, their anchor in a world where the oldest has a different dad from the other 2 and none of their dads live with us.. (mega complicated!)

I work freelance as a sewing teacher and make a patchwork quilts for friends. In my spare time I am a Scout leader - if I wasn't the group would fold.

For me my time with my boys is precious. We have fun, we go on adventures and we empty huge boxes of Lego out on the floor for days on end... but my housekeeping skills aren't great!

Everyone is healthy, fed and happy. They are never without and they have a wealth of fun memories...

We do tackle the house every so often - mostly when we have visitors to be fair!

So is my messy house a sign I have failed as a parent?

Or is it just simply a sign we are too busy learning, growing and being together?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Free Motion Quilting 6/365

Today I am really late doing my free motion block, work has been a bit chaotic!

So today I decided to have a go at swirls and rounded corners.

The block is called Flowing Glass:

The block is quite easy to do, but getting the stitches consistent is quite hard. Plus I didn't work into the middle enough on the first side - a fear of going out too far - so when I was travelling up the other side I really had to go right across the void!

The gloves were great again and made real difference to moving the square around.

Festival of Quilts - The Quilts

Yesterday I blogged about the Festival of Quilts and the hoard of fabric and sewing stuff I bought - I had to explain to a friends husband how much fabric I bought and the cost... he almost had a heart attack! (It is a bonus not having a husband to explain these things too!)

Today I thought I would share some of the gorgeous quilts I saw and liked.... Unfortunately I didn't note the names or makers of the quilts - I forgot!

So here are the quilts I really liked:

This is such a gorgeous quilt!

This quilt was made with just hexagons!

I love the colours and the optical illusion of this quilt!

Loads and loads of rectangles in blue!

So gorgeous!

Only a small handful of the quilts at the show, but a simply gorgeous selection don't you think?

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Free Motion Quilting 5/365

Yesterday was the Matrix, which I really enjoyed working on. It is such an intense design and perfect for filling space.

Today I went back to swirls: Spiral Vine.

It looks really good! Yesterday at the Festival of Quilts I invested in the quilting gloves that Leah suggested on her blog (I am not stalking her I promise!). They are called Machingers Quilting Gloves, which you can get from Leah's shop if your in the States or from Creative Grids in the UK. They definitely made moving the square much easier and I felt I had much more control.

I will let you know how I get on using them on the bigger quilt I am working on.....

Free Motion Quilting 4/365

I managed to have a go at this design once I got back from the Festival of Quilts yesterday, but I didn't manage to get it online. So today there will be two designs.

The fourth design is Matrix.

It isn't too hard to do, but I did get a bit confused about direction in one of the corners and then I think I put too big a dip into the line so the lines kinda get confused and muddled... but pretty easy to do and looks good!

I will do the next one later... swimming with the monsters first!

Festival of Quilts

Yesterday was the best day of the year - it was the Festival of Quilts day!

I haven't been able to go for 3 years due to having the monsters on the weekends it is on, but yesterday all the contact days aligned and I was able to go! I was beyond excited!

All that fabric, supplies and quilts was just too much for me!

I only had a limited time in the show. A combination of the drive being quite long, the kids not being gone for long and meeting my sister for lunch (not seen each other for 2.5 years so loads to talk about!). So it was a bit of a mission affair - I knew what I wanted and needed.

I did  manage to see some of the gorgeous quilt entries. They are simply stunning! I particularly love the bright coloured ones. The traditional ones were amazing too, the contemporary section drew me most!

Taking a list and a purse full of cash worked to a point... I might have exceeded it slightly! My sister mentioned being like a kid in a candy store....

Here are the fabrics I bought:

There is Katherine's Wheel by Nel Whatmore on the top row, Prince Charming by Tula Pink in Twilight and Candy from Cotton Patch. The bottom four are Velocity from Backstitch.

It was a highlight of the show to meet Alice from Backstitch. I love her website, she is super fast with delivery and she always pops a note in saying hello!

The Tula Pink fabrics are for my blocks for the quilting bee I have organised. I am going to match them with this amazing Fair Trade Grey:

I also managed to get some thread, quilting gloves and supplies for felting:

I did manage to get some Aurifil Thread, but I was really disappointed that although Aurifil were there you could only buy the big boxes of thread, not choose from the racks on display...

Finally I managed to get an autographed copy of one of my favourite designers autobiography:

Kaffe Fassett has been part of my quilting journey since it started 16 years ago. I have made a few of his designs. I was kinda star struck and unable to talk to him really.... sad I know - it made my sister laugh!

I have some pics of the quilts which I will share tomorrow...

Friday, 17 August 2012

Free Motion Quilting 3/365

Yesterday was not too bad.... Today was a different experience!

I decided to try Oil Slick. It was hard!

The curving was fine, it was the re-tracing your stitches.. that is mega hard when you are turning corners. It just looks totally weird!

But at least I gave it a go...

New Machine...

I love my Elna... she is my first baby.

But she is 12 years old and although she has never let me down, I am thinking about getting a machine with a long arm.

I need some help deciding...

I like Janome machines - I had one on loan for a few months and it was lush!

Image from

The the 1600P QC looks good... it seems to do everything a quilter needs it to do, but I can't find any reviews on blogs....

The ultimate from Janome appears to the Horizon:

But at £1800 it is hard to justify..

Any thoughts?

I am hoping Janome will have a stand at the Festival of Quilts tomorrow and I can try both machines out... What about other makes?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Free Motion Quilting 2/365

OK, so yesterday was fun... I checked it out today and it was OK...

Today was harder!

I picked at random from the beginner page Sea Algae....

Not too bad, but not great. I did enjoy seeing it coming together though!

Where to tomorrow...... any suggestions from the beginners page?

Never Curb Your Enthusiasm

I am notoriously enthusiastic about quilting and sewing.....

If you read my blog regularly, you will know my addiction to fabric is seriously detrimental to my bank account...

I am also a huge advocate of the power of crafting/sewing to boost peoples self esteem and confidence. The sense of achievement and fulfilment a person gets from making something is unmeasurable.

I teach 4 young ladies every Thursday how to sew. They are sisters, each with their own strong personality and strengths and weaknesses. The eldest (N) has both dyslexia and dyspraxia, which has made her sewing journey an interesting - sometimes triumphant, sometimes hard...

We decided a couple of weeks ago to make quilts. Everyone picked a couple of charm packs, which have mixed with plains. The girls picked their own pattern and we started cutting. Each quilt reflects the makers personality in a way I never thought was possible!

Working steadily and gaining confidence, N started pinning her own work. She has a gorgeous quilt of reds and pinks that we have just basted together. Her seams have steadily improved and the smile on her face when she finished the lesson is infectious.

Last week we tried straight line quilting and free motion quilting. N loved the free motion. The lack of restraint and the fact she could make 'mess' and it still looked good caught her imagination.

Today I showed her my Shadow Waves sample from Leah Day's website and she wanted to give it a go... so we did!

Her attempt was amazing.. and I mean amazing!

She then decided it needed something else and could she investigate filling the waves with circles....

Here is her work:

What do you think?

I think this 14 year old young lady, who has struggled with traditional education, has found her groove!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Free motion quilting 1/365

So, after checking out Leah Day's website and her fantastic journey through free motion quilting last week, I have decided to try out her designs.

The best way to learn a new skill is to do it, and do it often!

So I am going to try and do one of her blocks everyday... I think by the time I have practised free motion quilting everyday for a year, I should have cracked it!

So here is today's go:

It is the Shadow Waves block that starts the beginners section of Leah's patterns. It's not perfect, but I do like the texture and I tried to concentrate on getting the stitches the same length!

Tomorrow I have picked Sea Algae, we shall see how that goes!

Variety is the Spice of Sewing!

Sewing is a hobby, like many others, that grabs you and holds you fast! One day you are frightened of the sewing machine and the next you have a stash of fabrics that fills a room... even more scraps!

It can be daunting, especially if you are coming as a beginner to the hobby as an adult.

My role as a sewing teacher is varied... I work with keen and confident 10 year old girls, who show no fear, 16 year old veterans who are more unsure, but love the challenge:

My work for Gloucester County Council involves working with adults from all backgrounds. The organisations that approach me want to use crafts to help support adults who have been identified as needing support with confidence and social skills. The aim is to ease them  into a classroom environment without frightening them too much!

Today was no exception. Tenants from the housing association have been offered the chance to learn new skills. I have 5 lovely ladies with varying abilities. They were brought together by one common aim - to learn to use a sewing machine.

2 of the ladies had never used an electric machine - they have hand cranks at home which haven't been used for years.... this is a new one for me! Most people have some experience of electric machines from school, but no experience of sewing machines except of hand crank machines.... Amazing!

The power of 3 hours sewing together in a room of strangers is amazing... they learnt how to set up a machine, played with the controls and made their own pin cushions for use on the course. They all left smiling, happy and with a sparkle... I love seeing that sparkle...

Next week I will have 9 ladies. 9 ladies to pass on some sewing skills to, to guide through the process of measuring, cutting and marking clothing for adding embellishments.

I can't wait!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Being prepared to teach..

Courtesy of WildGeeseDigital

I have trained in the past to teach Maths to 11 to 18 year old, which was a riot!

And I have a Diploma in Home Based Childcare - much easier working with 0 to 5 year old!

I have just completed post-16 teacher training, so the only age group I am not qualified for is the 5-11 age range.

Both jobs require the skill of preparing and delivery. It takes time to put together a lesson, all the information you want the learners to understand has be thought through and put into order. This takes time, energy and dedication!

The preparation involved takes time and involves bringing together so many different elements. For maths it was using resources in the classroom to teach concepts that kids are pre-programmed to hate. With under 5's it was developing learning experiences that were fun and inclusive - paint, paper and little clothing being one of their favourites.

Sewing is a whole different ball game. Today as part of my prep for tomorrow's lesson I have completed checked all my paperwork for risk assessments, put together handouts, cut fabric, checked machines, gathered all the sewing equipment I can find (and spares just in case) and triple checked everything... That is in addition to writing a 20 page scheme of work and 6, 15 page lesson plans....

To me preparation is key. Whatever you teach, writing plans and lists for each lesson is key to ensuring that your learners will enjoy their experience and they will learn what you want to.

During my training I have observed loads of lessons that were not planned - I mean NOT planned. Each time the teacher seemed to think their knowledge of the subject was secure enough that they didn't need to plan. They would be able to teach automatically...

It just doesn't work like that. Not planning makes you feel awful - it is like being on a speeding train and knowing you have no control over it. The lesson unfolds and goes in directions that feel uncomfortable.... and the learners sniff a run away train... believe me they do!

So next time you have a class whether it is sewing or math and it is going smoothly, remember that your teacher will not have left anything to chance.  They will have spent hours planning the session to ensure you learn what you need to and have fun...

New sewing finds....

I am always looking for new supplies and ideas for my quilting/sewing.

As you know I started my first quilt along with Fat Quarterly blog, which has been fabulous. Not only have I learnt a new sewing technique of English Paper Piecing, I have also tried out loads of fantastic new products.

Katy from I'm A Ginger Monkey and co-founder of Fat Quarterly, made some suggestions for supplies that I hadn't encountered before - some of them I will be using from now on!

Aurifil 50/2 thread was suggested as great thread for the hand stitching. It was a thread I hadn't heard of. I bought a neutral colour for my Hexy MF quilts. It has been a joy to sew with!  Since then I have ordered 6 different colours for my studio - they piece, quilt and hand stitch! They are sublime!

I ordered mine from Quilt Direct, who were super fast in getting the threads out and they have a superb range of threads to choose from!

Another tip I picked up was using bees wax to coat the thread when I am hand sewing so that is less likely to knot. I got mine from the Eclectic Maker, which is also a new website to me!

It has meant that my thread no longer breaks and there are far fewer knots than before. I really recommend it if you are hand sewing. I have even used it when basting a couple of quilts - I am old school and hand bast my quilts...

I hope you find my discoveries helpful!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sunday Morning Reading 12.08.12

Good morning!

Last week was a frantic week of work, meetings and monsters!

I have put the TV on for the monsters and found some gorgeous blogs to explore, and as usual I have them here for you too!

The first is a fabulous riot of colour!

Kate's blog, Greedy for Colour is a fabulous blog. I love this blog because it is packed full of gorgeous images and ideas. There are so many cute bunnies that it makes me want to learn how to improve my knitting and crocheting skills!

The next one is written by an American in the UK:

This blog is full of fabric, quilts and life! The Sew Happy Geek is full of finished quilts and links to other quilters with projects to admire and drool over - perfect on a Sunday morning with a cuppa!

I hope you enjoy these 2 blogs - they are great fun and perfect for a Sunday morning!