Newsletters

Hello and welcome to The Quilt Lady newsletter page. The newsletters are below, with the most recent first. Simply click where indicated to access the newsletter you wish to read. Alternatively, there is a monthly archive if you are looking for a particular newsletter and you know which month it was published in. I’ll be covering a whole range of quilt related topics, including long arm quilting, antique quilts, patterns, piecing and quilting, tips and ideas, and restoration. You will also find information on the latest workshop dates. If there is something in particular you would like me to cover, please let me know.

Make yourself a mug of something and settle in. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them, and I’d love you to leave comments and share similar experiences, frustrations and solutions.

Hello, here’s hoping your New Year has got off to a warmer and dryer start than ours has down here in a stormy Cornwall. With storm Brigid and her followers barrelling their way towards us, (today’s winds are supposed to be up to 80mph! Sheesh!), making yourself a mug of something warming, ( hot chocolate with whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate flake sounds about right today), and bundling up under a quilt whilst you read this latest newsletter is definitely your best bet.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that Santa managed to bring you everything that you wanted him to, or even to surprise you with something extra special and unexpected. It all seems so long ago now, but honestly, it was only just over a month. As predicted, our Christmas was very low key this year. My daughter spent a week with her father, stopping off to see her brothers in Bristol for a night on the way there. My husband ended up being away from home until Christmas Day morning, so I was able to get on with some quilting without feeling guilty about neglecting the family, and to listen to and sing along to Christmas music without having to deal with any threats against my life. Win-win!

Did you make any New Year resolutions? Aside from the perennial ‘gotta get fit’ that as usual lasted for about a week, (please stop rolling around on the floor laughing people, it could happen!), I want to get back to making some quilts in between quilting for others. When I was packing up my studio ready to move I took an hour over a coffee to go through my pile of ‘ooh, that would be lovely to make’ patterns and torn out magazine pages. Some I had forgotten all about – that’s what happens when your brain begins to wander!, but some were like meeting old friends. Some patterns were relegated to a ‘Hmm, maybe one day’ pile, some to a ‘What was I thinking’ pile, but all in all I have a nice little heap of patterns to consider. This is in addition to the shelves (now boxes) full of projects ready to go. First up though will have to be a quilt for each of my sons – I promised them last Christmas that I would make them one, just didn’t say when I would get round to it. It is always good to have a project or several to look forward to making. My challenge will be to make them from my stash, which several of you will know is extensive. I will try to keep myself honest by posting progress bulletins and maybe photos in future newsletters.

So now that we are in our new home and working our way through a mountain of boxes, ( I swear our stuff breeds when it is put into boxes, there always seems to be more to unpack than went in), I have had to work hard at carving out time to set the long arm up again. My ‘studio’ is currently in the stable block – not exactly elegant, but dry, and with power and light, functional. With the addition of one of those tripod builders lights, a rolling oil filled radiator, and a radio I have made it work for me, (that guy from Project Runway, what’s his name, would be proud of me), but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my new studio will be working soon. This is it currently.

inside studio (imagination required)

No roof, no windows, ivy growing on the inside of the gable end and concrete cattle feeders along one inside wall. But it will be a studio. Honest. If you squint your eyes up really tightly, and use a ladle full of imagination, you can see it. It will be brilliant. Sizewise it is about 30’ x 15’, so perfect for me to have the longarm at one end and a sewing table at the other, a little kitchen area and a stove with a comfy chair for snuggling under a quilt next to whilst drinking a mug of hot chocolate with all the bells and whistles. Got it all worked out in my mind, and in my mind I am already there.

So that is me for the moment. Storm bound, up to my eyebrows in boxes and desperately trying to find all those essential things I packed somewhere safe. Well, actually, I’ve got my long arm set up, I know where the Bernina is and I have a large (ok, huge) bag full of things that need to be made, so that is the essentials taken care of. Working out which box a certain colour of fabric is in, or where the thread got packed is just adding to the fun. Now that I can feel things beginning to settle down again, I will be better at getting these newsletters out regularly. I hope that wherever you are, you are not getting too bad a beating from the weather, and are able to use it as the perfect excuse to stay home, stay warm and quilt.

with love,

Sara

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Hello, and after months of radio silence, I felt I needed to come up for air, at least briefly, to say that I am still here and that really I have no excuse for not writing regularly except that time just seems to run away with me. It has been a busy and interesting year; plenty of visitors brave (or foolish) enough to risk life in the wilds of Cornwall; plenty of work on the house and in the garden; major exams to get through with my daughter; the arrival of a cat and later two dogs, ( yes, one would have been plenty, but we have two, what can I say?); several quilt exhibitions, and a new, part time job for me as a Registrar Ceremonies Officer. In between all of that, I have been busy with my long arm quilting, talks and quilt restoration. But at bottom, being the Luddite that I am, I resent the time and effort involved in driving a computer and so I’m usually happy to relegate any work that involves using one to the bottom of the heap.

Our next major project here will be my studio, and we are making a start on that this coming week, demolishing the existing front wall because it bows beautifully, but dangerously, out of true. The stone will be re-used to build an outer skin once the new block wall has been erected. I am putting all my faith in the work being finished in time for Open Studios 2015, which is May 23rd – 31st. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I will take pictures, and who knows, if I can summon the will to do battle with the computer, I may even get them onto my website or FB page.

As usual, I have several quilting projects lined up for all that free time I might have. More than a few that need finishing up, as well as the lure of the new. I am once again going to endeavour to work only from my stash for the coming year – we all know it’s certainly large enough to keep me going for several lifetimes, so just as long as I have just the right shade of whatever colour is essential, that should work. Right?

I hope you all manage to find some time over the holidays to fit some sewing in, enjoy the opportunity to spend time with loved ones, and sew, eat and drink far too much, and sew, sing along to all the Christmas music, and sew and watch all those great Christmas movies. And sew.

With love,

Sara

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Hello, and welcome to a Cornwall bathed in beautiful sunshine and looking gorgeous again.  Pull up a lounger, get that drink sorted out and kick back for a while.  It’s a long-ish post and I’m diving straight in.

 

This month I wanted to talk about ‘The Importance of Being Square’.  Not, in this case, Ernest.  I’m quite sure that when we all first started out on our quilting journeys we were told or we read how important it is to measure and cut accurately, to sew an accurate ¼ inch seam, to 'press' the seams not iron them and to square up at every step.  Over time, we all, and I include myself in this sweeping statement, grow complacent.  The ruler slips a smidge when we are cutting?  Never mind, I can fudge that in the seam.  I cut something at 2 3/8” or 2 5/8”instead of 2 ½”.  Never mind, I can fudge that too.  I sew a seam that is a little off that ¼ inch?  Never mind, I can make allowance for it somewhere else.  Ironing board too far away/not even set up/I’m too impatient to get on with the sewing to bother? Never mind, I’ll finger press and it will be fine.  Ironing instead of pressing so the pieces go out of true?  Never mind, I’ll just pull it the other way and it will go back ok.

 

If any of these sound even a little bit familiar, step away from the cutting mat and sewing machine now.  It is time to re-visit the basics and have a refresher session.  You will need your sewing machine threaded up ready to go, a cutting mat, ruler and cutter and some fabric scraps.  Before you start, make sure you have a sharp blade in your rotary cutter and take the time to press your fabric so that it lies flat.  For thinner or delicate fabric, spray starch is your friend.  Use it a lot.

 

For this exercise, we are just going to make a basic 9 patch, so find yourself a couple of left over pieces from a jelly roll and take them to your cutting mat.  Measure accurately, and measure again, then cut 9 2 ½” squares, 4 from one fabric and 5 from the other.  When you are cutting, make sure you are standing behind the cutting edge and not over to one side.  Hold the cutter so that the blade is at 90˚ to the mat and the edge of the ruler, not leaning at a greater or lesser angle.  Position the cutter butted up to the ruler on the mat just below the edge of the fabric, and pressing the cutter down firmly, run it in one smooth cut away from you, not in a sawing back and forth motion.  Maintain the pressure on the ruler and double check that the cut has gone through all layers of fabric.  If not, then repeat the cut, away from your body in one smooth run.  Check again to make sure the cut has gone through.  Only when you know it has can you move the ruler.  Repeat for all 9 squares.

 

So much for the cutting.  Line up all the squares along one line on your cutting mat.  Place a long ruler along the opposite edge of the line of squares.  Are they all the same size?  Rotate the squares through 90˚ and check again.  Once you are happy you have cut 9 squares accurately it is time to sew.  I’d like you to sew 3 rows of 3 squares each, alternating the fabrics, but let’s take it one step at a time.  After you have stitched the first 2 squares together, place them on the ironing board with the darker fabric on top.  Leaving them still right sides together as you have stitched them, press the iron straight down onto the seam and hold still for a couple of seconds.  Do not move the iron backwards and forwards, just hold it still.  Then lift  the darker square, like opening a box lid, right back until it is lying on top of the seam allowances.  Press the iron down on the now open seam and again hold still for a couple of seconds. If you move the iron as though you were pressing a shirt, you will stretch the fabric.  Sew the third square onto these 2, repeat the pressing stages.   

 

Once you have a beautifully stitched and beautifully pressed row of 3 squares, you need to measure across the width of the centre square at it’s top, middle and bottom.  If your stitching is accurate, all three measurements will be 2”.  Not 1 15/16” or 2 1/16”.  2”.  All of them.  If it’s not, then you need to adjust the ¼” alignment on your sewing machine.  Stick a line of tape along the edge of fabric line if you need a visual guide, or invest in a ¼” foot for your machine.   A sixteenth of an inch might not sound much, but multiplied over a 9 patch block, that is an eighth of an inch just on the internal seams, plus another eighth for joining the blocks together, that’s ¼” per block, so over a row of blocks it won’t take many to be several inches out on your supposed measurements.  And that is if your stitching is a consistent amount out.  If the seams are thinner at one end than the other on some blocks, or one fabric slips during the sewing because you were too rushed to check the edges were lying together, then your measurements will be even more up the creek.

 

Sew the remaining 6 squares into 2 rows of 3, check the measurement of the centre squares each time.  And then check the overall dimensions of the rows.  They should be 2 ½” x 6 ½ ”.  All of them.  Lay the rows out in their block formation, making sure the seams are pressed in opposite directions from one row to the next.  Sew the rows together, nesting the seams so the corners match.  Press each seam as you go in the same way as before.  Once the block is complete and pressed, beautifully and accurately, measure the centre square – you are aiming for it to be 2” up, down and across.  Now measure the overall size of the block.  It should be, altogether now, 6  ½ ” square.  If it is not it needs to be squared up.  Find the exact centre of the block – in a 2” centre square that should be easy enough, and measure 3 1/4” out from that point in each direction.  Trim away any excess.  If the block is smaller than it should be then your cutting was not accurate, your seam allowances are not consistently accurate, or your pressing is not accurate and there is a small fold of fabric at the seam.  Go back and check each of these.

 

I know that life seems to be a constant rush and a battle to find enough time to do all the things we want to do, like quilting.  To ‘help’ us with that, we are all encouraged to whiz through all the stages of making a quilt, constantly besieged by books and magazine articles to get it done in a day/afternoon/session.  Well, I’d like to suggest that perhaps it’s worth slowing everything down and taking the time to get it right all the way through.  I’d also like to suggest you try to enjoy every process along the way.  You will find that if you have measured and cut accurately, and stitched an accurate 1/4” seam, and squared up each block before you try and put them together, the actual putting together of the blocks will be a doddle.  No really, because there will be no need for creative fudging, easing or stretching, and your points will be where they should be.  With no fighting things along the way, you will find yourself enjoying the whole thing so much more.   Try it and see for yourself.  

 

And finally, on a non quilty note, my little girl turns 16 at the end of March.  I tell her it is a miracle that she has managed to reach this great age, but oh, what a journey it has been.

 

Until next time,

Sara

   

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Hello again, here at last is the December newsletter from The Quilt Lady. Whatever the weather is doing where you are, and whether you are on your own or with loved ones, make yourself a glass of something seasonal (gluhwein works for me!), have a mince pie or two and snuggle up under a quilt, and when you are comfortable, then I’ll begin. Ok, not quite ‘Listen with Mother’, but I’m sure they would not mind the creative liberty. (American peeps, this was a radio programme, followed later by a tv programme called ‘Watch with Mother’, that aired in the last century when I were a young snippet.) In the middle of November I did my talk for SW Quilters, just down the road at Tresillian. This time, I took along a large selection of feed sack quilts, made during the depression years, plus a few from the tail end of the 19th century as contrast, and some feed sack odds and ends. I knew several people in the audience this time, and am still not sure whether this is better or worse than talking to a room full of strangers. As usual, I could have talked until my voice gave out, but managed to wind things up before I was hooked off stage. From the number of people who came and chatted to me afterwards, I think it went down very well. A few ladies brought some wonderful treasures in to show me, but none came home with me this time. Talking of bringing treasures home with me, I have recently acquired this little beauty. It is English, paper pieced, the top is made entirely from silk, and it dates from the early to mid 19th century, probably c1840. The papers are still inside, and where there is some deterioration in the fabric, I can see that the maker has re-used old letters, an auction catalogue, a maths primer, and what I think may be a chemist’s prescription – would need to find a few more bits of that to be sure. I was beyond excited when I saw all these, actually you probably heard the squeals of delight from wherever you are! IMG_2218 This rather bad photo was taken in my conservatory under difficult circumstances, sorry. Hopefully though, you can see that it has a centre diamond shaped medallion, made up of 20 diamonds within a diamond blocks, and 5 diamonds made of half inch hexagons, arranged 5×5. All paper pieced all the papers still there. I love that the maker managed to not only work with such tiny pieces, but managed to create a definite pattern in each of those 5 diamonds. This second photo gives you the scale reference on those hexagons. Amazing! IMG_2210 Around the centre medallion is a solid border and then diamonds in random silk fabrics, and around 3 of the outside edges is a black and white gingham check silk valance with decoratively cut edges. This would have been somebody’s pride and joy, and a lot of work and creative skills went into it’s making. And I am a very happy bunny to be able to give it a new home. I recently flew to Florida for the last few days of November, and into December, for my father’s 80th birthday celebrations. My brother flew in from Spain as well, and as my other brother lives in Florida, it meant that for the first time in way too long we were all together. I seemed to spend the whole time buying food, preparing food or eating food, having arrived in time for Thanksgiving, meeting up with friends for a brilliant night out, not to mention the actual birthday celebrations. And lest friends are worrying I can happily reassure them that I also had more than a few glasses of good stuff. (thanks for the chocolate vodka Jacquie, hmm, delicious!) It was a wrench, as it always is, to leave to come home, but good to be back home. Home for another 4 weeks at any rate. We will be moving during the first week of January, and I am both excited and nervous about the prospect. The process of selling one property in order to buy another is slow and painful, and incredibly frustrating. But we have now exchanged contracts and will complete on January 3rd. Yay! So, not much in the way of Christmas festivities here this year. Boo! Photos of our new home to come. In the meantime, I send all my good wishes to you for a very merry Christmas and a healthy, prosperous and happy New Year. Wherever you are, whoever you are with, however far away your loved ones may be, remember, Christmas is a time for thoughtfulness, friendship and love, and I thank you for yours. I look forward to getting together with you again in 2014. Sara
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