The Finish Along is back – Q1 2017

I’m not expecting to get many WIPs finished this quarter, but as usual, I’m going to give it a go, and suggest three things that could possibly get done, or at least develop a bit further!

This dress still hasn’t got any further since last quarter, it’s time I got that done.

Another no-changer – these Blanche bags. I only want to finish these two for now.

And yep, you guessed it, another I haven’t touched for three months. This was the first project I started when we moved and I was sewing on my first machine in friends’ basement before we got a place of our own! I have no real purpose for this quilt, but maybe it will be big enough to fit our bed when finished? I really should check that.

***My blog was half-down for almost a week, looks like it got upset by someone touching things they shouldn’t and my template disappeared and it went all gross looking, so I missed the actual link up, I’m only unofficially taking part this quarter ***

Selvedge Salvage

Today I learned that what I call a selvedge is the British spelling of selvage. I wondered why I had seen it written in two different forms.

I’ve collected selvedges for a while now, maybe a couple of years. When I was in the UK I’d pass them to Di in our EMMQG meetings, but since coming over the Canada a year and two days ago(!) I’ve saved them in a jar and thought that maybe I would do something with them.

Now, I have nowhere near a project’s worth, but I needed to start doing something with them as they’d outgrown the jar. So I decided they would be good as a simple cushion, mixed in with some scrap strings because I have a schwack of those too.

So I’ve made four 3 1/2″ blocks, they were very quick and it keeps me interested as I simultaneously work on catching up with bee blocks. If I’m completely honest, I am not enjoying putting bee blocks together anymore, and I think that is why it has been easy to put other projects first. The guilt is getting to me in a big way now though, so I need to get my head down and get them done!

My jar still only just closes, and I through out about 1/3 of what was in the jar as there was lots of plain white bits I didn’t need! Weird how that works.

And now, back onto finishing up book stuff and clothing repairs, it will be good when those and the bee blocks are over, too much obligation on my plate. Sewing is meant to be fun, right?


It’s so frustrating that I can’t share pretty much all the projects I’ve worked on over the last six months or more! I only have six quilts to show for 2016 on the Finished page, and that’s entirely untrue. There’s four more (if you include a three piece quilt) I’ve not been able to show. I thought I’d show some really sneaky super close ups of two of the projects I’ve had to remake. I like them better than the originals (maybe I can share pictures of those soon?!) so that’s got to mean that it will be an improvement. I’m in the quilting stage. I still have two quilts to make and a couple to edit too, maybe a smaller project to make. I really want to be done with it by the end of January if possible. I’ve done the step outs though so the boring stuff  -which shows binding step by step for instance – is all shipped off. I have a new editor too – I really liked the previous lady I worked with, but I’m yet to “meet” her and I’m sure she’s just as great.

I’m starting to think the quilting is my favourite part, especially on smaller quilts and projects.

In other news I finally finished a set of bee words. These were supposed to be for September! Two or three pieced ones to go now.

I’ve also started on a QAYG project sample for a class I hope to teach next year. I need to finish this up quickly too so I have a sample. I’ve pitched two classes, both completely unrelated to my book. That will be refreshing for me as well as gently introducing me to the world of teaching and finding my approach, since I will be expected to teach and travel a bit to promote my book. Last time I did any teaching work was to 13 and 14 year olds making resin jewellery as a guest teacher at a school and they were throwing chairs at each other… That was a few years ago now and I’m pretty sure the adult teaching experience is much better.

When all of these commitments are done I am really looking forward to doing something mindless and unnecessary, like scrappy log cabins, but in reality I know I’ll be back on the magazine stuff as before, bills gotta be paid. I am not doing Project 48 this time around, or any bees. I need to have a relatively commitment free year in 2017; 2016 has been hard with a move to a new country, work, writing a book, being mentally exhausted by the state of the world, etc. I’d like to clear some of my non-essential WIPs too just to tidy the cupboard a bit.

My goals are:

This weekend: Finish piecing book quilt, bee block and signature block, finish QAYG on class project.
January: Finish any bee words outstanding and most of the book stuff, do at least two clothing repairs/alterations (see last post)
February: Finish book stuff once and for all if not done already, then do a happy dance and high five myself very hard. Release a new PDF pattern. Work on a new Hank quilt. Try and finish the dachshund dress.
March-April: Finish Hank Quilt. Gently work on at least one magazine project. Design quilt with my bee word blocks.
May-June: Work on the second Quilt Workout pattern since I dropped the ball. Release a new PDF pattern. Magazine project. I’m away some of June back in the UK for my sister’s wedding.
July-August: Finish Quilt Workout pattern and release it. Do a fist pump dance. Magazine Project.

And I’m making no more plans past that just yet! I would like to produce some of my patterns on paper in 2017 too, and try and get in with a distributor, maybe towards the end of the year when I have a better portfolio. I think the key will be having diversity in my WIPs already to keep me interested and not starting anything new unless it is for an intended deadline, so I don’t add to the stack.

I also bought some fabric, because, you know, fabric. Some sale orange/rusts to prop up the stash from Fabric Spark, and some Euclid linen and Modern Backgrounds from My Sewing Room. I bought some more from Fat Quarter Shop this week and I have plans to buy a bundle of Saturday Morning too while it’s still available at Green Fairy, I just have to get the money together for it.


Linking up:
2017 Planning Party

Happy New Year!

A whole crapola of repairs

You know when you’re doing fun stuff and the boring stuff keeps piling up and piling up… (like vaccuuming, putting laundry away, etc)?

Well, I probably have a full weekend of clothing repairs and adjustments to do now. I would LOVE to get this cleared by New Year for a fresh start but that gives me 10 days. Nope.

A pair of jeans for my husband which needs a torn crotch stitching up as best as possible, half a dress, a shirt that needs the shoulders slimming (so many adjustments have been made to this shirt already to make it small enough!), a pair of jeans two inches too long, a pair of work trousers an inch and a half too long, a coat with a torn armpit accessible only by undoing the lining plus it has a toggle missing, a dress that needs hemming 1″ higher and another that needs a hook and eye fastener added and a zip reinserted…

I hand sewed my XL Christmas-ish vintage jumper in about 2″ at each side seam by hand yesterday morning. We’re having a Christmas jumper day at work today (though no one else seems to have bothered) so this is good enough. I added sequins to the trees last night in front of a couple of episodes of Mr Selfridge.

On an expected note, I didn’t get any quilts accepted to Quiltcon which is no great surprise. I’m torn between making something specifically for Quiltcon in 2018, or whether I should just keep making what I like and maybe entering things if they possibly fit the remit. I do have one gripe (that’s unlike me) about Quiltcon. I feel the quilts that get accepted are very unlikely to be used. I’m pretty sure the definition of a modern quilt by the MQG includes a statement about it being a utilitarian quilt “designed to be used”, which is at odds with art quilts. Though that’s what a lot of these feel like to me. I don’t know.

P.S. it’s my birthday tomorrow!

A finish: Ornament

Urgghhh Instagram is being such a pain! It keeps crashing when I try to upload and it’s been like this for a week. I’ve reinstalled the app and restarted the phone so many times! And no reply from Instagram tech help.

Anyway… This quilt was made around the same time as S is for Snake and sent off to be in Quilt Now at the same time. It was in issue 29 and I was so slow sharing it that it’s now a back issue- sorry…

It’s simple applique really- I drew a shape, scanned it into the Scan N Cut and then cut out the shape from a few fat quarters that I had fused webbing onto. I used different webbings to try them out and some were better than others. The rubbery ones tended to crinkle weirdly in the wash. I recommend the ones that feel less rubbery, like Wonder Under, Soft Fuse, etc.

The background is a checkerboard effect of plain and gold spots and then the shapes were fused onto the squares and satin stitched with some bold black thread. This was done on my little Walmart cheapy machine I showed you earlier, and I think it fared well seeing as it had so many to do.

Photography of the quilt on the Quilt Now website.

Photography of the quilt on the Quilt Now website.

Size – 45″ x 54″ I think (from memory)!
Number of blocks – 81 actual rectangles, but 35 applique blocks.
Time to make – About 8 hours with the quilting
Fabric – Kona Snow and a Robert Kaufman gold spot for the background. Ornaments themselves are Millie Fleur by Bari J for Art Gallery Fabrics.
Backing Fabric – A double wide remnant – a muslin print of some description
Binding Fabric – Pure Elements in Watermelon (I think) – Art Gallery Fabrics
Threads – Piecing and satin stitch with Aurifil 50 wt. Quilting with a varigated Isacord.
Batting – 80/20 Hobbs Heirloom.
Quilting- Stitch in the ditch with echo quilting. The shape was made into a stencil and the quilting was added in the same design to the rectangles that didn’t have the applique too.

Submitting to Quiltcon

At the very last minute I submitted some quilts for Quiltcon 2017. I was a recipient of a Michael Miller challenge bundle, so I was obliged to get my act together and send it in. I finished it on the weekend and then forgot the bit where you take photos…. When I got to the form, it said it was $30USD for up to three entries. I didn’t see the point in just sending on one (especially since it’s not my most favourite work) so I sent in three.

I got very angry at one point. I had filled out all the details, measured the quilts, etc and then left my computer to go to work and then take photos of the newest quilt. By the time I came back I had to start all. over. again. With insanely slow WiFi. There’s no save option, be warned! Have all your photos ready and information to hand before you start!


Here is my Luxe challenge piece for the Michael Miller category, it’s called Sound and Vision. My inspiration was the fabric itself and then somehow that progressed to light and sound waves. I took a bit of creative license when it came to the quilting, the light is bending in totally unnatural ways 😀 It’s small, at just 36″ square and is made from the two grey Luxe fabrics I received, plus yellow and teal Michael Miller solids. I did not have fun quilting this, the walking foot always applyies too much pressure and it wants to wrinkle the fabric constantly, even with the presser foot pressure reduced right down. Also the way the guide attaches to the machine means I can’t actually use it along with the walking foot without too many attachments on one screw and it all falling apart. Next time- normal foot straight line quilting with the guide!


FAL 2016

This is also a Finish Along Finish, and the last I expect I will do this quarter.

My next submissions are not really in the Quiltcon design vein so I’m not expecting much in terms of acceptance (on any of the three to be fair). I sent in Chandelier for Modern Traditionalism or whatever it is called…

… and also Shine Bright in the Piecing category.

We will see what happens!

Odd socks for giants

Last weekend I found myself with spare sewing time because I had to put my book step-outs on hold. But that aside for a moment, it meant I made these ugly sweater blocks (pattern by Kid Giddy) with some silly dog-themed Christmas fabric I knew they had at My Sewing Room.

And they became two stockings for Christmas. The names were cut out with my Scan N Cut, of course.

The fabrics are a mismatch I know, but I really liked this Juniper Berry collection by Basic Grey and planned to use it for stockings well before I made the sweater blocks.

2016 marks the year I officially became a crazy dog lady, because I made a stocking for Hank too. Because I’m clearly a lonely weirdo…

Stocking pattern is free, and by Sew Like My Mom. And I made the human ones a touch longer.

So back onto the pause in book stuff. My book will not be out November 2017 now, it will be February 2018 we think. This is because I’m remaking some of the project or tweaking them as requested by the publisher. Some of the designs were too abstract for the concept and they feel it would tie everything together better. It’s a little bit worrying since I worked part time whilst getting through the bulk of it earlier in the year and I have less time available now, plus it feels like a bit of a waste of time and fabric, but I’m going to lick my wounds, get my head down and just get on with it as quickly as I can and try to enjoy the process.

A Finish: Crosswalks

Here is my latest finish: Crosswalks.


It took ages to put this together, and I have lots of other stuff I should have been doing! I started it right around when I finished up my last quilt for the book because I just needed to get back to normal piecing. Looking back on Instagram I officially started it when I cut all the pieces while Netflix binging on Making A Murderer on September 17th.

The fabric is a fat quarter bundle of Janine Vangool’s Uppercase line for Windham Fabrics. I didn’t use them all, some went into my stash because I love them. Janine is a local designer, editor and publisher – of Uppercase magazine – here in Calgary, she was in the class I took with Lizzy House and she is awesome.

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I bought the backing from a Facebook group I’m a member of for $5 a metre. I have some left over which will work for bags. I quilted this on Monday with a pantograph at My Sewing Room and I love the texture, even if I had to change the bobbin a couple of times. The tension stayed pretty good so I didn’t mess up. And it took me 2 1/2 hours to quilt which is still a LOT faster than I would have managed on my domestic machine. I left the panto with Rebecca (of bag fame) so she can use it on a Star Wars quilt. I think it will lend itself very well to that!

I think this will be in either the January or the February issue of Popular Patchwork magazine in the UK.

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Size – 60″ x 60″
Number of blocks – 36
Time to make – About 25 hours – each block took at least half an hour and I chain pieced pairs towards the end.
Fabric – Uppercase by Janine Vangool for Windham. A fat quarter bundle. Plus yardage of Kona Eggshell.
Backing Fabric – Grace print from Joel Dewberry’s Atrium collection for Freespirit.
Binding Fabric – Riley Blake large stripes in black and white
Threads – Piecing with Presencia 50 wt. Quilting with Wonderfil Decobob prewound bobbins (80 wt) and Isacord on top (40 wt).
Batting – 80/20 Hobbs Heirloom as usual.
Quilting- Pantograph from Urban Elementz called Avant Garde. It’s quite a small design but pretty and simple.

This is a finish along finish!

FAL 2016

Brother PQ1500SL – a review of sorts

I realised that I have actually bought three sewing machines whilst I’ve been over in Canada, and not reviewed any of them. I find the review posts have been some of my most popular, so I guess I’d better do something about that.

My first purchase was a Brother Innovis NQ700. This is known as something else in the UK (don’t ask me what), and in the US I believe it is branded as Project Catwalk. I sold it after discovering I was too fast for my machine. I was making rapid points in FMQ on my animal quilts and I wasn’t happy with the stitch quality in the points. It was a nice machine otherwise, but I needed more speed and more power. Lea at My Sewing Room recommended I try the PQ1500 for the insane speed I sew at.

Here it is:

dscf1406As you can see it is very simple. It’s a mechanical, non-computerised machine. There’s only straight stitch, so the shank is super strong because it doesn’t have to move anywhere for zigzagging and the like. Bu since I mostly piece 1/4″ seams and free motion quilt, I use this machine 95% of the time. For the other 5% of the time where I need to do a blind hem or satin stitch applique for instance, I use this cheapo machine from Walmart. It’s also a Brother (since that’s my brand now) and it’s called the CE8080. It’s very lightweight for classes but if it breaks, it’s a goner. The stitches are pretty tidy. I keep it on the floor most of the time and when I need it, I unplug the power and foot control leads and plug them into this one, so I only have one set of wires on the go.


Back to the main review. This machine is HEAVY. It’s all metal and it has suction cup feet so it likes to attach itself firmly to a table. I don’t mind this because it’s not a machine designed for workshops and I only have to move it to the floor to swap it out for the Walmart machine. Because it is mechanical, I don’t really have to worry about it breaking down. I do have to remember to oil it a couple of times a month (a simple task). You have to be committed to cleaning it out on a Brother machine because it takes more effort than say a Husqvarna. There are screws to remove on the stitch plate to get in there and brush it all down around the bobbin area.


As for features, it still has the ones I liked in my NQ700. It has a knee lift (mechanical, not electric so it feels a bit…. manual), needle down feature (again, this is mechanical so what it means is needle stays down when you stop, not the needle goes down when you push it) and thread cutter. The bobbin is side mounted and there is an extension table which is good quality, with little fold out feet. There’s a trap door in the extension table to access the bobbin. You do have to open three doors though…


There’s also a needle threader. It’s a bit more primitive than some of the swanky ones our there, however I really like it. My reason being is that it works however high you needle position is. It comes down to meet your needle and as someone who has broken needle threaders before, this is excellent and makes it live much longer. It doesn’t need to be flashy to be perfect. Also, you don’t need three hands to operate it as it stays in place!


There are four feed dog positions. Most of the time though I use the feed dogs all the way down or all the way up. The other positions are pin feed – for sewing velvet and stuff, there’s a short needle like thing that comes out to spear it through – and half dogs, which would be used on fine fabrics that don’t need all of the force of full feed dogs. You can change this with an easy dial at the front of the machine, not a switch around the back.


There’s also the option to change the presser foot pressure. The colour coding refers to the position of the feed dogs.To be fair, I’ve not really had to move away from N = Normal for my uses.


If you are used to machines like the Sweet Sixteen, you totally can thread this machine right away, but for the first time it looks scary. I can do this in just a few seconds now. I’ve found that most threads like going through all three holes (in the bit that looks like a piece of Meccano), but I skipped the middle one for cheap and crappy metallic thread, and it was more than happy. The tension is a bit tricky to get the hang of to start with, and I’m still not sure whether the correct number is the one the dial shows when the presser foot is up or when it is down. Once I find a good stitch though I just don’t touch it! Some different brands of thread I have to turn it up or down a quarter turn depending on how the stitches feel on the back, but generally it stitches lovely.


It is fast and furious! It stitches 1500 per minute – hence the name – but I don’t recommend going top speed if your machine sits on a cheap Ikea desk on a third floor of a newbuild house (second floor for those in the UK that call the first floor the ground floor) – like I do. It vibrates and I assume annoys the neighbours. They just put their house up for sale, I hope it wasn’t me! I still can go faster than my old machine without much trouble, but I do occasionally lose control of my foot and go a bit crazy. I’ve put the foam pads for washing machines to stand on under the suction cup feet. That way I can move it off my table easier, but it also helps a little with the vibration. The plan is to sew in the basement on a quality table when we buy a house in the future.

The machine comes with lots of feet, which is good because it doesn’t take “normal” feet. These are high shank, speciality Brother feet. It comes with a walking foot, 1/4″ foot, free motion foot, two standard ones of different widths (not sure why), adjustable zipper foot and invisible zipper foot and…. something else I don’t use. It takes special bobbins (metal of course) too, but five are provided with the machine. It can also take both normal needles with the flat edge and the round Organ ones. Those ones last a bit longer in the machine but old habits die hard!


My husband was surprised – and a little concerned –  I brought home such a “basic” machine (that cost $1300), but it does me just fine most of the time and I have had to swear at it minimally, which is the most important. I’ve had some real machine frustrations in the past. The only thing I found so far is sometimes when I cut the thread and the spool is running low, it will suck the thread back up out of the needle and a guide or two. I found a fix for this is to not use the really stubby spool stand on the top of the machine, but to buy and use a cone stand for all sizes of thread. I go through the antenna style guide on the top of the machine as normal and I’ve not had this problem since! Also I had a tendency to over oil it and get marks on my fabric to start with, but that was user error.


So if you’re thinking about getting a more powerful, faster machine and you’re contemplating a mechanical one, but not wanting to go industrial, give this one a try at your local sewing shop. It’s the same as the Babylock machine but at a lower price point. What’s not to like?

Lifestyle change

My new job starts at 7.30am, leaving no time for pre-work sewing unless I want to get up before 6am (which I don’t – and only will have to if I need to do the morning dog walk for some Alex work related reason, i.e. all week next week. Woe). So I’m trying to be more of an evening sewing person, but that is hard. Hockey season has begun, plus Alex works while I am asleep and is home in the evenings. Then there’s the usual activities such as grocery shopping, cooking, etc. I thought I would have more time to sew because I’d have more energy going back to a desk job, but I am still tired when I get home too. I hope that I’ll adapt better soon.

I got accepted into the craft fair I applied for, then panicked because it is on a Friday. Since cancelling it (due to new work schedule), I discovered that Remembrance Day – the Friday it is on – is a bank holiday over here. But I got my money back, and actually having less compulsory rush sewing is pretty nice. I think I will just list things on Etsy for now and see where I go from there in the New Year after I build up my stock a little.

In book news, the projects are gone! I have step outs to do, but I want to finish the crosswalks quilt top first. Look, progress!


I’ve ordered this pantograph from Urban Elementz and so hope to longarm it on an evening/weekend as soon as it arrives.

I also need to quilt this for my Quiltcon Michael Miller challenge entry. Yep, my little 36″ square top is pieced and assembled. I had trouble with the points, they came out without enough seam allowance- I’m looking at you, top left square! – so a little unpicking may yet happen before quilting it, but that idea is making me put it off a bit…