The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sew Along Epidemic!

I admit it! I get very excited about patchwork and quilting. Sometimes I even finish some of the projects I begin with this unbridled enthusiasm.

My current passion is THE FARMER’S WIFE 1930’s SEW-ALONG. There is a ‘one stop page’ for all the information curated by GNOME ANGEL. (

My book arrived last week and I am busily preparing my patterns and choosing my fabrics for the September 28th start date.

The Farmer's Wife 1930s Book and Fabrics

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Book and Fabrics

I know I have promised some unique results from the 200g of scrap swap….

Scraps Become a 'new' fabric

Scraps Become a ‘new’ fabric

Half Square Triangles created with these great papers

Half Square Triangles created with these great papers from Quilters Barn

…and I will finish that project…
BUT, this is a SEW-ALONG and I have never done a SEW-ALONG like this before. The group has its own Facebook page and there are already over 2500 members. Can you picture the diversity and cleverness of all these Patchworkers sewing along? It quickens the pulse.
My bobbins are full and my needles are new.

Fabrics, Bobbin and Needles

Fabrics, Bobbin and Needles

Come on and join the world wide project that has developed a life of its own! You know you want to…think of it as using up lots of fabric you already have to make room for new fabric that hasn’t even been designed yet…..ooooo aaahhhhh.

Tuesday Treats- Zentangle Quilting

Remember when we all used to speak on our telephones and doodle on a pad of paper? We were tethered to the wall by the curly phone cord. Some of my best spontaneous designs were created this way. Mobile phones have changed all that, however I have discovered that ‘doodling’ lives on!

My latest book purchase is by Suzanne McNeill CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher).

???????????????????????????????                                                                                      Suzanne McNeill Zen-sational

Using Suzanne’s book as inspiration, I wanted to experiment with her technique AND practice my free motion quilting. I traced a wine bottle onto some cotton; layered wadding and backing for my quilt ‘sandwich’, and began to stitch.

I used Aurifil Cotton Mako 28wt in my machine. I used a size 90 Jeans needle and Aurifil Cotton Mako 40wt in the bobbin. I love this Aurifil shade of red, it is almost the exact colour of wine in a bottle.

Aurifil 28wt in a favourite colour

Aurifil 28wt in a favourite colour


I outlined the bottle.

FMQ Outline

FMQ Outline

I divided the bottle into sections.

Area divided for FMQ

Area divided for FMQ

Each section is treated to a different free motion quilt design.

First section

First section

Second section

Second section

Third Section

Third Section

Fourth Section

Fourth Section

Fifth Section

Fifth Section

Sixth Section

Sixth Section

I even revisited Lori Kennedy’s free motion quilting tutorial.

Final Section

Final Section

I am pleased with the results.  AND I can still chat on my mobile phone…hands free (to quilt) of course.

FMQ8Have a go at Zen-sational Stitching. If you can draw it you can stitch it.

I love my book, and you can find more of Suzanne’s books here:  Suzanne McNeill CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher).

Crazy Heart Tutorial

After I posted about finishing my free motion quilting challenge , I received a request for instructions for making the quilt. So here it is for Eva …..

Well, I’ve written the instruction for making the crazy heart block, and have left it up to you to decide on the block layout for the quilt …. with sashing, or blocks side by side, or maybe you won’t even make the hearts into blocks  … made smaller the hearts would make great decorations.

Now the instruction for Crazy Foundation Piecing:

I have used a light interfacing as the foundation for my crazy piecing.  The finished size, and shape, of your appliqué is drawn onto the interfacing. The blocks in my quilt were about 12″,  so I made the heart about 10″.

Draw the finished sized shape on interfacing

Draw the finished sized shape on interfacing

Start at an edge of the heart;  place two fabrics right sides together and stitch a straight seam.

Fabrics are auditioned and added one at a time

Fabrics are auditioned and added one at a time

Press the fabric open.

Place another piece of fabric, at an angle with wrong side up, on top of the opened fabric and stitch a straight seam.

Fabric will cover the ends of the previous scraps.

Fabric will cover the ends of the previous scraps.

Continue to build up the fabrics, at random angles, until your shape has been covered.

The fabric is trimmed along the shape outline

The fabric is trimmed along the shape outline

Trim the heart shape  along the drawn line.

Glue the heart onto the quilt background fabric using a small dab of Sewline Glue.

A dab or two of Sewline glue holds the shape in place

A dab or two of Sewline glue holds the shape in place

You are now ready to sew the heart  into place on the block. Use 40wt Cotton Mako and a straight stitch or Aurifil 12wt Cotton Mako and a decorative machine stitch.

Once the hearts are all stitched into place on the background fabric blocks, you can join them together in your preferred layout to make the quilt top.

If you don’t want to make an entire quilt as I did, you can make some festive place-mats or even a single coffee mug mat. This is a wonderfully fun way to use up those scraps you love.

A Modern Welcome is Ready for Quilting

Your quilt top is finished and ready for quilting. All the extra fabric pieces remaining in your charm pack and the pieces left from making your blocks were used to create your backing piece.

Make sure you allow at least 2 ½ inches of your backing to extend on all sides of the quilt top.

I have used a 80%cotton20%polyester wadding in this project.

Lay the backing down first, wrong side up; then the wadding; then the top.

The backing and batting extends on all sides of the patchwork top

The backing and batting extends at least 2 1/2″ on all sides of the patchwork top

The three layers may be basted with thread or the layers may be pinned together with large safety pins.Once you’ve done that, you are ready to quilt.

I am quilting on my domestic machine and I have used a walking foot for the straight line quilting

and Aurifil 28wt Cotton Mako thread on the top and Aurifil 40wt Cotton Mako in the bobbin.

Aurifil 28wt for top thread and Aurifil 40wt for bobbin thread

Aurifil 28wt for top thread and Aurifil 40wt for bobbin thread

To make a neat start, with the presser foot raised, bring the bobbin thread to the surface of the quilt. Lower the foot and take a few stitches. Then backstitch for one or two stitches to secure your threads.

Begin by pulling bobbin thread to the top

Begin by pulling bobbin thread to the top

Anchor both thread with a few backstitches

Anchor both thread with a few backstitches

Walking foot is an excellent guide for straight quilting  lines

Walking foot is an excellent guide for straight quilting lines

A darning foot was used to free motion quilt the pebbles in the appliqué block background.

Aurifil 28wt for fun free motion pebbles

Aurifil 28wt for fun free motion pebbles

The Modern Welcome Quilt is the perfect size to try free motion quilting and experiment with some of your machine’s built in stitches for a unique quilted effect.

When your quilting is finished, carefully trim the backing even with the quilt top. The excess backing will be used next month to create your binding.

For more information about Machine Quilting for Beginners check out Cheryl Fall for more tips and tricks.

Tuesday Treats: AQC Class and Workshop

Have you ever heard the saying, “My eyes were bigger than my stomach”? When the class booklet arrived last year from AQC with all the possible available classes I wanted to take them all. I had a tough time narrowing down my choices…think box of favourite chocolates.

Around the same time, Judy Neimeyer, from Quiltworx, was in town teaching several shop owners her newest quilt design. One of these shops is way too close to my house. You can see how easy it was for me to over indulge.

Yes, that’s right. I signed up for two days at the AQC AND the first installment of the Australian Glacial Star quilt to begin the next day. As the dates inched closer I began to question my judgment. I also had a friend visiting from overseas who was attending AQC as well and our time together usually involves fine food, good wine, and chats into the wee hours of the morning.

The adrenalin kicked in on the morning of AQC and I boarded the train into town toting all my class supplies; full of excitement.

by Susan Brubaker Knapp

by Susan Brubaker Knapp

My class with Susan Brubaker Knapp did not disappoint. I painted on fabric for the first time in my life and it actually looks like the picture.

First try at painting on fabric

First try at painting on fabric

Susan, an Aurifil sponsored designer, was very generous with her time and ideas and brought many samples of her beautiful work to class.

Class Samples by Susan Brubaker Knapp

Class Samples by Susan Brubaker Knapp

All this inspiration  carried me on to a local quilt shop, Palm Beach Quilting, and I began the journey into becoming a paper piecing expert.

Judy Niemeyer's paper piecing techniques

Judy Niemeyer’s paper piecing techniques

Maureen patiently taught us new techniques and introduced me to gadgets I had never seen before.

Maureen's New York Beauty

Maureen’s New York Beauty

The excitement was still driving me on to cut and sew…by the time I started home after 6 hours in class, I knew I had over indulged. I felt weary and a little light headed. I had one too many pieces of chocolate….I had ridden one too many rides at the fair. But I still knew  after a good nights’ sleep I would be back amongst my new projects and fabrics.

I have all year to rest before the next AQC and a full month to complete my homework before a new design is offered from the ‘chocolate box’…..yum….

So  jump into the deep end! Over indulge! You can never have too much when you are creating!

Tuesday Treats: a walk down memory lane

Recently, when I went browsing through an antique shop in Tasmania I came across a treasure trove of old threads.

It is amazing to see what can be found in an antique shop

It is amazing to see what can be found in an antique shop

It got me thinking about the sewing tools that were used by women in days gone by and reminded me of the beautiful sewing box that I had been shown by a friend.

This delightfully, carved, ivory sewing box was given to a family member in the early 1900’s so it is, or is close to, 100 years old.

This ivory sewing box was carved in the early 1900s

This ivory sewing box was carved in the early 1900s

The carvings were personalised so that each side of the box depicts a story of the recipient’s life.

One end of the ivory sewing box. Each image is a "story" about the recipient's life.

One end of the ivory sewing box. Each image is a “story” about the recipient’s life.

The tools that are stored inside the box are also amazing, an illustrated needle case & bodkin closure,

This needle case is kept inside the sewing box

This needle case is kept inside the sewing box

and a little container to keep the embroidery thread organised.

This is a clever container to keep the embroidery thread organised.

This is a clever container to keep the embroidery thread organised.

Another story about a beautiful sewing tool was shared recently by Deborah of Studio Dragonfly

If, for no other reason, it is worth reading Deborah’s blog to see the beautiful decals that decorate her old treadle.

Modern sewing machines do not have such decorative trims, although you can always add a skin to your modern machine to give it a little jazz up.

See the links for some ideas, or ask at your favourite sewing machine shop.

 Skins for Bernina Machines

Skins for brother machines

Today our tools are beautifully practical, but do not necessarily have the same decorative beauty, or personal significance.

Unless, of course you make them yourself.

Here are some great ideas from Tipnut to make a sewing machine cover to brighten your sewing room.

Free Motion Quilting Challenge Update

When ever I sign up for a Block of the Month OR a Design of the Month I become acutely aware of the how quickly time passes. It seems like I have just written about my FMQ accomplishments under the tutelage of Ann Fahl ….THAT was MARCH!!

The April FMQ tutor was Don Linn. Don has an interesting way of designing and marking quilt patterns onto the fabric. Once you have chosen your design, it is traced onto tulle. The tulle is placed onto your block and the design is transfered with a temporary marking tool. I used a Sewline pencil with green lead for my heart block. Don’s design wasn’t suitable for my heart block so I used one of Sue Patten‘s designs from her Quilting Possibilities book.

New Pattern Marking Techniques

Once the design was marked onto my block I had the new experience of staying on the marked line with my needle. I found this a bit awkward and the results are not as balanced as I would have liked. I filled the big gaps with “pebbles”.

Not wanting to lag behind again on this ‘monthly’ challenge, I completed the May FMQ challenge the day it appeared on Insights From SewCalGal‘s blog! The tutor for May is Leah Day. Leah’s tutorial video is very informative and she presents it in two parts. Several tools are recommended by Leah including the Supreme Slider and Quilting Gloves. One of Leah’s suggestions is to free motion stitch the straight lines as well as the design lines. She uses polyester thread in the top of the machine and in the bobbin. I may try this in the future on another project with Aurilux, but I want to keep the thread in this project consistent.

Part 2 of the tutorial presented  several options. I have used the first option as I think the design suited my crazy patch heart.  The heart was outlined with free motion quilting and then the large meandering was completed. I can honestly say I felt comfortable doing this so progress is being made. The secondary design is a smaller , winding meandering, filling in the larger foundation stitch.

Step 1Step 2

I will humble myself again…the back of the quilt shows my free motion, outline stitching of the heart block. There are a few wobbles and jumps but I am learning heaps. I really like the Supreme Glider and I think I can get used to the gloves. I am certainly feeling braver !

The back of the block

Adjusting the sewing machine tension

Last month I started writing about sewing machine maintenance so this month I thought I would continue the theme by talking about adjusting the thread tension.

It is a timely topic as Lana Wool thread, our Calendar Girl thread for March, is great  fun to play with in the sewing machine, but you do need to loosen the top tension for this thicker Ne 12 thread to get best results.

A Pfaff programmed embroidery design, stitched with Lana wool thread.

Apart from the times when you might wish to play with unusual threads, having  the ability to adjust the thread tension in both the needle and the bobbin will help keep your sewing machine in good working order.  

Good thread tension means that the machine can make a well balanced stitch with the top and bottom thread locking together in the centre of the stitch. If the stitches are forming properly it helps to prevent thread breaks which can cause small pieces of thread to catch in the bobbin race.  

People often tell me that they find the thought of adjusting the tension on their machine too scary to consider, but it doesn’t have to be something to fear. I did an internet search and found this great printable reference with drawings of good & poor stitch tension and simple clear instructions about tension adjustments.

There are only two options for changing the thread tension, either the top thread or the bobbin thread, and it is generally easier to start by adjusting the tension on the thread which runs through the eye of the needle. By tightening, or loosening, the tension on the top thread it is possible to allow the locking point between the top & bobbin thread to move back into a balanced position.

On this exposed tension control on my industrial machine you can easily see the disks and spring that control the pressure on the top thread

The tension dial for the top thread has two disks between which the thread travels, and the gap between the disks is controlled by a spring. Usually the only part that is visible on a domestic sewing machine  is the dial that controls the spring.  As you move the dial, to open (loosen) or close (tighten) the tension on the thread, keep a record of the positions that work for different threads or types of stitches. 

On some machines the tension dial is hidden inside the machine case.

Before you start making any changes clean & re-thread your machine and make a stitch sampler & record the current settings. Most machines will have numbers on the dial, but if  the dial on your machine is blank use a permanent marker to add your own numbers or simply draw yourself a clock face record.

A clearly marked top tension guide. Rotate the dial to the right to tighten the thread tension or to the left to loosen the tension.

Depending upon your sewing machine, the bobbin either goes directly into the bobbin race in the machine, or it is put into a separate bobbin case  before that is inserted into the bobbin race.   Most machine handbooks will have some clear photos to show you how to thread & set the bobbin into the machine.

A removable bobbin case, showing the tension spring and screw fitting

In both cases the tension on the thread is controlled by turning a small screw that will open (loosen) or close (tighten) a  “spring” .  

Some machines are designed to have the bobbin dropped directly into the bobbin race

When adjusting the bobbin tension the secret is to make miniscule turns on the screw as a small adjustment can make a big difference to the ease with which the thread can travel. I have a tiny screw driver in my sewing kit that came out of the repair kit for my spectacles. (These little  “handbag” repair kits are usually available from an optometrists)

HINT 1: “Righty Tighty, Left Loosey” is the adjusting meme/mantra that helps me remember which way to turn the top tension dial and bobbin set screw.

HINT 2:  If the machine tension is badly out of balance thread the bobbin & needle with two different thread colours, of the same thread type, so that it is easy to identify which thread is pulling tighter than the other.

HINT 3: If your machine has a separate bobbin holder you can always purchase a second holder and keep it permanently adjusted for the slippery or fancy threads.

Now it is time to have some fun machine stitching.  Don’t forget to tell us about your latest project.

The Sewing Room Summer Maintenance

Now that the summer holidays are over, and the children have gone back to school, it feels as if people have turned their attention back to their sewing projects. 

Our online store has had a “run” on quilt hanger, quilt label & thread orders in the past two weeks and we kicked off our “Calendar Girl” thread of the month program with Cotton mako’ Ne 40 thread.

Cotton Mako' Ne 40 is perfect for quilting echo background designs.

So with everyone back sewing, I thought that this would be a good time to talk about getting your sewing machine ready for a new year of stitching.  I think that my machines are trusty work horses, one is more than 20 years old and the others are at least 10 years old, and all are still stitching well.

I do occasionally have them serviced by an experienced mechanic, usually only when they have an obvious problem, but I am scrupulous about cleaning the bobbin race and oiling regularly.

The needle plate & bobbin case removed so that dust & lint can be brushed out from around the bobbin race.

Take the needle/presser plate off the machine to brush out the built up lint & fluff. Modern domestic machines often come with an instruction that says that they do not require oiling.  However a cotton tip/bud dipped in some good quality sewing machine oil is the perfect tool for brushing around the bobbin race to pick up the last  little bits of lint. The thin film of oil that this leaves behind helps to keep everything running smoothly.

Most machines will have a lever or switch to allow the feed dogs to be dropped.

If it is possible to “drop” the feed dogs on the machine, then do this and clean around the bobbin race once again. Don’t forget to re-set the feed dogs once finished otherwise the fabric will not be pulled through under the foot when you start sewing.

The other maintenance item that I check regularly is the needle.  The accepted practice is that a needle should only be used for 8 hours of stitching. This is a good starting point but sometimes you will need to change the needle more frequently. Listen to the action as you stitch, if the needle is making a lot of noise it may have become blunt. Some fabrics such as batiks, battings such as cotton and projects with lots of thick seams can wear the needle point at a faster rate.

Specialist machine needles are available for quilting, embroidery & fine fabrics

In the scheme of things the cost of a new needle, or a specialist needle for a particular job, is nothing when compared to the cost of your precious sewing machine.

A little bit of preventative maintenance is always better than costly repairs.