Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Desperate Housewife's Quilt as you wish along starts tomorrow

Tomorrow ( 1st July here in Australia) starts the marathon of 50 blocks in 50 weeks. I hope you can all join me as I set the challenge for 50 unique (as unique as one can get with 6 billion people in the world. Maybe somewhere, some one has come up with the same idea - the pressure is on).

This is not a quilt-a-long but a quilt-as-you-wish-a-long where you pick and choose what blocks you like and how you want to use them.

I will be having quest bloggers from week 2 onwards presenting their beautiful 8" finished blocks. In total, we should make it to 100 blocks.

Blocks will be modern, traditional, colourful, neutral, easy, complex, pieced, foundation pieced, straight, curved and dimensional.

So throw on the comfy slippers, grab a beverage and let's get sewing.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Share the Love of fabric Giveaway #4

This is the last in the series of giveaways throughout the month of June. Do not despair, The Desperate Housewife's Quilt starts next week and I will be giving away fabric and notions throughout the project.

This weeks giveaway is a combination of fabrics from the Bryant Park and Anthology collections.

6 x FQ's of emerald green, golds greys and white
To win all you have to do is answer this question:

What is your favourite household chore?

I am sure we have so many of those wonderful, everyday cleaning jobs we love to do. 

I will announce a winner next Saturday AEST. Don't forget to leave me a way to contact you. Good Luck!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Share the Love of Fabric Giveaway #3 Winner

The winner of the Laura Gunn Solids this week is:

MoeWest said...

I love having soup in the winter and we have a pot of soup every week. My husband loves making soups because he can wing it rather than follow a recipe. Italian Wedding soup is one of my favourites.
Maureen, I will pop your winnings in the post on Monday. I hope the Canadian Postal strike won't delay your parcel too long.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strip piecing, joining seams and pressing.

Today I would like to discuss tips for strip piecing, joining strips and pressing blocks in preparation for 'The Desperate Housewife's Quilt'.

Strip piecing
Strip piecing is a timesaver when you are making multiple blocks which have identical rows made up of square, diamond, triangular or rectangle pieces.

Simply it is joining strips of certain widths and cutting those strips at various angles into equal widths to create a block row.

The important steps in producing perfect strips are:

  • Accuracy in initial cutting of strips
  • Use starch
  • Pin
  • Consistence 1/4" seam
  • Press open (or press over) seams
  • Use a centre seam for angle measurement rather than top or bottom of strip set
  • Keep adjusting ruler every few cuts to make sure angle and measurement is still accurate. 
Accuracy of cutting strips
This is important because you are trying to produce a repetitive sequence of pieces that must be all equal. If your initial strips are not all cut to the correct width it will cause distortion on the strip set and your intersecting seams will not line up.

Starch or Starch Identical Products
I use a light spray of Best Press when making strip sets. It gives the fabric body and support and makes it easier to maintain accuracy. Remember starch is a polysaccharide (sugar complex) and makes a lovely treat for crawlies. It also can yellow over time. Wash out the starch from any project if you are going to store for a long time.

Pinning stabilises the two layers of fabric as you sew. Place pins at close intervals along the strips as you sew them together. Only take a bite of the layers of fabric when you pin. This causes less puckering.

Consistent 1/4" seam
Make sure you sew slowly and ensure that the seam allowance is consistent for the whole length of the strips and every subsequent strip you sew.  Use a sharp pointed object, such as a stiletto, to grab the strips at the end so the 1/4" seam is maintained until the end.

Press not iron
When you set a seam or open a seam, please just press. Pressing is just lifting the iron and lowering the iron along the seam. The weight and temperature of the iron will flatten the seam. If you move the iron too fast and furiously over the seam it will distort the seam. I do not use steam when I press as it can distort a block. Remember to set each seam after you sew to ensure that the piecing is accurate. Even the slightest error will compound when making multiple blocks. I only press the seam once and then try not to press the set over and over again. Minimum handling equals minimum distortion.

Choosing the line at which to measure your angle
Always choose the straightest seam somewhere in the centre of your strip set to use as a reference line to measure the angle to cut. The top and bottom of the sets can be slightly distorted. 

Cutting a 45 degree angle
Measure Twice, Cut Once
When cutting along the strip sets, make sure your measurements are accurate and your angles still correct. Check every few cuts. If every strip is cut accurately, then the seam intersections will fit beautifully together.

From this 
To this
Open vs seams to one side
Both methods have their place in quilting. I tend to use more open seams these days because I like the flat look with no bulk. If your stitch is short and tight then nothing is going to poke through and you never have to worry about which side to press towards. Dark or light, up or down. Sometimes, you will need to press the seams to one side, especially when many seams intersect. Seams to one side is also handy when you want to quilt in the ditch. The higher seam acts as a guide.

Seams Open

Seams to one side - ' the dark side Luke '

Pinning the Seam Intersections
I start with pairing the two pieces, right side together. Move the pieces until the seams fit snuggly together.

Place a pin at exactly 1/4" (equal to your seam allowance) straight up and down through the two seams. The pin should be right through the stitch line of both pieces. If it is not, manipulate the pieces until it is. Remember, the pin must be straight. Shifting to left or right will move the pieces and the seams intersections.  Place a pin on either side and remove centre pin. This should hold the seam position in place and stop the seams being caught or shifting under the presser foot. Repeat this for all seam intersections and pin in between each piece.

Always reduce sewing speed when coming to a seam. It is like driving fast over a speed hump. The car takes off and veers to to the left or right. If the sew line is not 1/4" inch it will effect your angled intersections. (It is more forgiving with straight seems). Get your needle as close to the pin as possible before removing it. Try not to sew onto the pin. It distorts stitches and damages the needle.

Give your block a press. ( A gentle laying of the hands not a deep tissue massage ) and you have one perfect piece to add to your quilt block.

Seams to one side

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Delirium and Rainbows

I rarely get sick but the last few days I have been fighting really bad chest infection with high temperatures and joint pain. Thank goodness for the Panadol Rapid (Tylenol). It gives me some relief so I can have some lucid, pain free moments and get to my sewing room for a brief post or two. I must be sick because I have not felt like sewing.

I was feeling very sorry for myself when I received my parcel of Bella Solids I won in Shruti's (from 13 Woodhouse Road) Bella Solids Parade earlier this month. Shruti did a wonderful job to present 31 weeks of Bella Solids with giveaways throughout. This box of Rainbows certainly brightened my day.

I love my Bella Solids by Moda. They are an affordable, high quality basic that come in approx 146 colours with the convenience of selected colours available in Jelly Rolls, Charm Packs and Layer Cakes.

31 x 1/2 yards of loveliness
Kimberly, from the FatQuarterShop sponsored both events. Kimberly and her team work very hard to sponsor many giveaways and I really appreciate their hard work and dedication to providing an excellent service and quality of goods.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Java, Puttin' on the Ritz and Primitive Muslin and more Ruby Charm Packs

Just arrived today the following beautiful Charm Packs:

Ruby by Bonnie and Camille, Puttin' on the Ritz by Bunny Hill Designs, Primitive Muslin by Primitive gathering and Java by Deb Strain for Moda.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Share the love of fabric Giveaway #3

This is the third week of the 'Share the love of Fabric' giveaways. This week I will be giving away 6 FQ's of the solids range from Michael Millers 'Painters Canvas' Magnolia Lane Collection by Laura Gunn. I have fallen in love with these textured solids.

To win these beauties you must answer the following question:

What is your favourite winter soup?

Yes, it's winter in the southern hemisphere and the nights are freezing. My favourite winter soup is Balley Soup (you can find the recipe here.) followed by a close second with pumpkin soup with sour cream and chives.

The winner will be announced next Saturday (AEST). Don't forget to leave a method of contact.
Good luck.

Share the love of fabric Giveaway #2 Winner

Once again I had a wonderful response to the questions, 'What is the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to you'. You can read all the comments here.

The winner of these scrumptious FQ's is:

Stamps & Stitches said...

in college i had very low self esteem and was very shy. One day in the library i was studying in a corner and an upperclassman guy came up to me, knelt in front of me and said, "i just wanted to let you know that you are very beautiful". he walked away leaving me speechless. i didn't know him and didn't talk to him again. it was just something that brightened my day and made me feel so much better. =)

love the giveaway! i haven't won one yet. here's hoping!

It's your lucky day. Congratulations Bethany. Tomorrow I will be posting another FQ giveaway, so stay tuned. P.S that was so romantic.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Threads, Needles, Bobbins and Tension - Part 2


Part II of Threads, Needles, Bobbins and Tension. You can find Part I here.

Tension is all about balance. The balance between the upper and lower thread. Ultimately, we want our top thread and bottom thread where they intersect, to be buried in the layers of fabric.

I found this great diagram in a couple of places on the web that illustrate the two most common tension problems. Top tension too loose or tight.

Don't you just love the little tug of war going on with the thread.

The simplistic approach to this solution is to adjust the top tension. If your machine has a manual dial, then turn right to tighten and left to loosen.

Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey

Remember to only turn in the dial in small increments as even the smallest adjustment can have a substantial impact.

If your machine has computerised tension adjustment, same principle applies - increase or decrease tension in small increments and test.

Simple, but there is more.......

Not all tension problems can be solved by the quick flick of a dial. If you think about the pathways the upper and lower thread have to go through then anything that causes an obstacle will affect tension.

In previous post I discussed the relationship between thread and needles. If you do not have the correct size and top needle for your thread it will create resistance. Needles will dull after awhile and this can impact tension. Also, when changing the needle, make sure it correctly inserted as even a 1mm can affect tension and stitch quality.

Oil - It is very important to maintain your machine. If your machine uses oil, then use a high grade, clear sewing machine oil to add a drop to places recommended by the manufacturer. Do not over oil and never not oil. Keep your oil in a container away from heat and light. If it starts to yellow or feel gritty between your fingers, throw it out. It will damage your machine.

Remove the fluff - Cotton threads can leave a lot of lint. Invest in a good sewing machine brush and gently remove any fluff and threads from the bobbin casing, feed dogs. Practically anywhere you can get the brush in. Gently dab the brush and the fibres will pick up the lint. Avoid pushing the lint further into the machine. Never blow the lint out as the condensation on your breath can rust the parts (on non galvanised or stainless steel components).  Some people use air in a can. Moisture can accumulate in these cans so spray away from the machine until only air is being pushed and then carefully and sparingly remove lint. I don't recommend air in the can and vacuuming unless really confident.

If you have a metal bobbin casing that has a spring, gently run a very fine pin under the spring to remove caught threads. Do not damage the spring. A tiny piece of thread caught in the bobbin spring can impact on tension.

If you only do straight stitch, occasionally set the machine up with the correct foot and stitch plate for zig zag. Use the widest zig zag stitch and sew. This stops some of the older model machines from seizing.

Service - we all service our car so why not schedule you beloved machine in for a service one a year. A good service will thoroughly clean the machine out and adjust or replace any worn or wobbly components in a machine.

Re thread machine
If you have incurred a thread or needle breakage, please re-thread your machine from the start. It is amazing how often this can fix a plethora of problems. Always check the manufacturers recommendation for where the needle and foot position should be when threading.

Correct Stitch Plate
If your machine as a single hole stitch plate for straight stitch, use it. It gives a better stitch as the fabric is not sucked into the needle hole in the plate.

The way the thread winds off the spool or cone
Tension in the thread coming off the spool / cone can impact tension.Threads wind off the cone or spool either vertically or horizontally. Check when you buy a thread which way it should be placed on your machine.

Invest in a good cone holder that anchors the cone base so it does not move around too much and thread can be suspended and flow easily from the cone.

Bobbin Winding
Your domestic machine will have automatic bobbin winding. Follow manufacturers instructions for threading when filling a bobbin. Check to see bobbin is filling evenly and not filling to one side or another.  If the wound thread looks spongy (like Spongebob square pants), check the way you threaded the bobbin winder (taught not loose) and the bobbin is fully seated on the winding device (not raised).

Many Tensions for many fabrics and thicknesses
Tension will be different for every fabric, thickness and stitch used. Get to know these combinations and record them for future use. Most manufacturers of domestic sewing machines provide tension guidelines. Remember, they are only guidelines and you may have to do some tweeking.

I have given you a simple run down on things I have found affect tension. Have a search around the internet, ask advice and just learn through experience and get the feel for your machine.

P.S This is a great article on thread tension -

Three more Welcome Hexies makes 13/16th

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The first 15 (It sounds like a Rugby team)

I have had a wonderful response regarding 'The Desperate Housewife's Quilt'. Fifteen bloggettes have put their hand up and will be presenting their original 8" block designs over the coming 15 weeks along with my weekly block post. My goal is 50 blocks.

Please welcome:

  1. Anorina ( - 8th July
  2. Sally H - 15th July
  3. Deanna ( 22nd July
  4. Aunti Pami ( - 29th July
  5. Karen W ( 5th August
  6. Tonya ( 12th August
  7. Kelley ( - 19th August
  8. Annie ( - 26th August
  9. Lorraine ( - 2nd September
  10. Jennifer ( - 9th September
  11. Christina ( - 16th September
  12. Janet - ( - 23rd September
  13. Lynne ( - 30th September 
  14. Melissa ( - 7th October
  15. Karyn ( - 14th October
I am so excited to see what everyone will be making.

Don't despair if you missed out on the first round. I will be asking for more volunteers in October. So put on your thinking caps and get out the design board.

Remember this is not a quilt-a-long. Just come along for the ride. Maybe there will be a block or two that will inspire you. Maybe a new technique that will enhance your quilting experience. I would love to see everything you make, so post it on Flickr for the everyone to enjoy its magnificence. 

Remember that the blocks designed are protected by Copyright laws and remain the property of the designer and cannot be used for commercial purposes without the permission of the owner.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Desperate Housewife's Quilt

I must be mad. 50 Blocks in 50 weeks!

July 1st is the kick off date for 'The Desperate Housewife's Quilt'. I will be presenting 50 original blocks over 50 weeks. I will show you how to make these 8" finished blocks in easy to follow tutorials, covering as many techniques as possible.

These blocks can be made into a sampler quilt or just used as a solo block to make a full quilt.

It is not a quilt-a-long. It's a 'only quilt as you wish' -a-long.

I will be using fabrics from my stash - solids, reproductions, modern retros - anything goes.

I will even throw in the occasional giveaway or two (or three).

Why should I have all the fun? The first fifteen volunteers to leave a comment (with contact details) will be chosen to create a unique 8" finished block and write a tutorial showcasing its amazing beauty and functionality. 

So let the Desperate Housewives begin their adventure, toss off their slippers, slip on their red stilettos, grab a martini and get sewing.

Spread the Word

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Share the Love (Fabric of Course) - #2 Giveaway

This weeks giveaway is six (6) FQ's from the Sugar Flower series from Lecien. This is such a summery and delicious fabric collection.

To win this lovely bundle of sweetness all you have to do is answer the following question:

What is the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to you?

I will be choosing a winner next Saturday ( AEST ). Remember to leave a way I can contact you. Good Luck.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Share the love (Fabric of Course) - June Giveaway Winner

Throughout the month of June I will be giving away six (6) FQ's every week. The first giveaway was FQ's from the new Prince Charming Collection by Tula Pink. To enter you had to answer the following question:

"Leave a comment telling me how you would change someone's life if you won 20 million in the lottery".

The responses were so beautiful and selfless, I wished I had 20 million to give to each of you instead of 6 FQ's.

The winner of the Prince Charming FQ's is:

Pam said...

I love this fabric!
I have a grandson with Alexander's disease. It is a terminal leukodystrophy that not much is known about. I would put 20 million towards discovery of a treatment or cure for that.

Congratulations Pam, I will contact you for details where to send this package of loveliness. I pray that they do find a cure for your grandson.

Tomorrow I will post another FQ giveaway......

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Delightful box of goodies

Just into the little shop are the following scrumptious fabric delights from Moda designers Bonnie and Camille and Fig Tree & Co.

Ruby Layer Cakes
Ruby Jelly Rolls
Butterscotch & Roses Layer Cakes
Butterscotch & Roses by Fig Tree & Co. 
 Also, Curio by Basic Grey Layer Cakes are now back in stock.

Curio Layer Cakes

Still at the very humble price of $AUS 30.00. Limited stock available.

Go! baby giveaway at Samelias Mum

Hurry over to Samelias Mum blogspot for a chance to win a GO! Baby. I am dying to get my hands on one of these little babies.

Giveaway closes 26th June
Don't forget to look at Anorina's tutorial on pinwheels using HST's made on the GO! cutter

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Threads, needles, bobbins and tension - Part 1

The 'very important' straight stitch in quilting

I thought I would share with you today a little of what I have learned about obtaining a perfect straight stitch.

There are four tools that are important to make a perfect straight stitch -

  1. the correct needle for the thread
  2. a good quality thread
  3. the correct tension for upper and lower threads
  4. and a single needle plate.

If you can get these tools balanced in combination with regular maintenance of your machine then your sewing space will be a happy place.

Choosing the correct needle for the thread is important. The size and type of needle determines how the thread will be handled. There are many on-line articles on choosing the correct needle for the type of thread. One in particular is the article from Schmetz. It has wonderful diagrams and charts explaining the sewing machine needle and the different types required for different fabrics.

If you have every wondered what the numbers mean on the needle box, then Bob from Superior Threads explains it well, "Needles range in size from very fine 60/8 to a heavy duty needle 120/16. Most needles use the two-number measuring system. The higher number relates to the metric system and defines the needle shaft diameter in hundredths of a millimeter. The lower number relates to the system in the U.S. and is an arbitrary number also used to indicate needle shaft diameter"

Juki published an interesting articles in how threads are wound

Threads come in many weights, fibre types and qualities. The threads I use most for piecing and quilting are 40wt, 50wt and 60wt threads in both cotton and polyester or cotton wrapped polyester. Polyester is fine to sew and quilt with as it is very durable, doesn't leave fluff like cottons and contrary to popular belief, it does have a quite high melting point. If you place your iron on a setting just below cotton, it will not melt the thread. The melting point of Polyester thread is somewhere between 480 and 510 F (248-265 C). The new polyester threads on the market now will not compromise the integrity of a cotton quilt and damage the seams with wear. It is all a matter of personal choice what threads you use.

Red thread - Polyester Tex30, 40wt (#90/14)
Grey Thread - Cotton 40wt (#90/14)
Green Thread - Polyester 50wt (#80/12)
Ivory Thread - Polyester 60wt (#80/12 or #70/10)
The 40wt is the thickest of the three and is great for piecing and using in quilting where you want a very defined quilting stitch that highlights the quilting pattern. If I am using a 40wt on top, I will use 40wt or 50wt in bobbin. I chose a Topstitch #90/14 needle because it has a sharp point and produces even stitches when combined with a single hole needle plate.

Single hole stitch plates stop the fabric being dragged in. They help maintain an even straight stitch.
Always check that you use the correct stitch plate for the selected stitch. The wrong plate can cause needle damage and subsequent damage to your machine.
50wt is one of my favourites as it melts into the fabrics when piecing and disappears into the fabric when quilting. If you want the quilting pattern to show rather than the thread use the 50wt or 60wt. Use 50wt or 60wt in the bobbin. My needle of choice is the Topstitch #80/12 for both cotton and polyester threads.

60wt polyester is very fine and is used when you do not want the thread to show in piecing at all. Use 60wt in the bobbin. Recommended needles are Topstitch #80/12 or #70/10

Some people use the embroidery needle. This needle has a blunter tip than the topstitch, a wider groove and larger eye to handle delicate embroidery threads and ornate stitches. If you are experiencing problems with the embroidery needle, try the topstitch or quilting needle.

Needle Maintenance
Remember to change your needle frequently. A blunt or damaged needle can cause missed or untidy stitches or mimic tension problems. Just because it is new out of the package does not mean it is perfect. Some needles have manufacturing faults. Look for the telltale signs of a damaged needle.
  • Broken or shredded threads
  • Skipped or uneven stitches 
  • Puckered or damaged fabrics
  • Popping sounds made by sewing machine
Make sure when you change the needle it is seated correctly into the machine. If it is not placed in correctly, your stitch quality will be compromised. Also, don't screw the needle in too tight. Over tightening the screw that holds the needle in place can cause the screw threads to wear resulting in a loose fitting needle.

Be guided by the manufactures recommendation for needle size and replacement. I generally go to the manufacturers website and download the thread and needle guides. If in doubt, they are very helpful in answering any queries you may have about this topic.

In Part II, I will be discussing tension.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The Inchy Hexagon Swap is now closed and I am making 16 new welcome hexies for our last recruits. I managed to get three done last night ( and slipped in 2 more today).

2 more today - 9th June
Another 3 done - 10th June

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ruby has arrived

In my little shop I have just listed some Ruby Charm Packs and Flannel FQ bundles. Ruby is the new range from Bonnie and Camille for Moda. Simply fabriclicious!

Flannel FQ bundle - 13 Pieces

Ruby Charm Pack
I also have back in stock Panier de Fleur Layer Cakes by French General for Moda.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Second block swap complete for June

My partner ( a local from Victoria), requested a specific block from the Ladies Art Company, known as Mosaic no. 1 Ladies Art Company, also known as Mosaic #3 by Nancy Cabot. You can find a pattern for this block here. Hilly loves deep, saturated jewel tones like burgundy, dark blue, emerald green, purple, deep brown, ochre, burnt orange, red on dark. She didn't mind florals or batiks, tone on tones but disliked all pastels, lime and bright yellow, ivory or cream.

Wee Churn Block

Here is a wee churn block for Lurline's Ed arranged by the ever so sweet Christine.

Albany Fair 2011

I wish to thank all the crafters in our community that worked tirelessly to create such beautiful craft to share with everyone and a special thanks to our fearless convenors, Rob and Judith.

A great day was had by all ( and a very good nights sleep)