First ever lap quilt completed (at last!)

I’ve finished the machine-stitched lap quilt I’d been making for my aunt, and have handed it over, said goodbye to my labour of love! (These pictures are poor, the light was low, so it looks over-exposed). I experienced lots of difficulties getting to grips with using the sewing machine, particularly with using a walking foot, and the sheer bulk of material to feed through the machine, but it’s been a learning experience. I’m not sure I’d do it any better again, but am willing to give it a go when I get round to paying for a better quality quilting foot, but that’s not going to be for a while yet (no large-scale quilting to do yet anyway). It’s also true that all the errors which seem like a big deal at the time, and when looked at close-up, aren’t so important in the scheme of the finished product, and when it’s given as a gift and not designed for minute inspection by a quilter’s guild (perish the thought!). I’ve learned that the green squares make the pinks sing out more rather than just blending into an amorphus pink blob: a lesson I wish I’d learned earlier with regards to the autumn quilt I’ll be going back to in the New Year. Also, with this project I had my first shots at needle turn applique, which got better as I went on and which I’d like to try again. Most importantly, my aunt, to my relief, was really, really pleased with it, and appreciated the time that had gone into it, and was more interested in looking at the different patterns of the fabrics than spotting where my lines had gone wonky or the stitches were different lengths – bless her! What I need to do now is learn from that lesson, so enjoy it more and worry less when it isn’t perfect… well, I can try!

Not quite ‘out with the old, in with the new…’


I’m doing a double-fold mitred binding on the pink quilt, and sewed on the front almost a fortnight ago, the weekend before last, but have still not finished stitching it down at the back. This is because I’ve another Christmas project, which I started in November, and is much smaller, and I’ve been focusing on that. I know it would be better to finish one thing before starting the next, but it occurred to me that as this last part of the binding is all done by hand and doesn’t require any equipment apart from thread, needle, pins and scissors, I can take it with me when I go to stay with my parents for a few days next week. I’m taking it with me anyway, as they’ll see my aunt before Christmas so will be kind enough to deliver it for me, and I think I should be able to finish it in the time I’m there – well, I’ll have to now!

I only had one error when I was sewing on the binding, when I only realised after the fact that a few inches of the front hadn’t actually gone under the needle (!) but I rectified that by hand. More difficult was dealing with the ends of the binding, which I’d forgotten I’d never quite sorted out in my previous attempts to do this binding. I’d seen one book which talks of cutting a straight edge, folding it over, and somehow inserting one end into the next, but the one time I tried that it looked really clumsy and messy. I then read about it in Linda Clements’ book, where she does a mitred join, and it looks much neater, but I simply couldn’t fathom it. In the end, getting desperate due to lack of time, I cut both ends on the bias (is that the right phrase? at a 45 degree angle anyway), slipped one inside the other, and sewed over both near the edge. I know that’s not right, but fortunately the ditsy pattern on the fabric makes it not too noticeable, though it’s bound to fray a bit.


I will have to sit, when I’ve more leisure, and use scrap fabric to work out how to do that properly, because it’s one of those details that makes all the difference.

In the meantime, I’ve finished doing the patchwork of the cushion front of the ‘new’ project and have just started quilting it. This weekend, along with everything else I want to do before going away, I need to finish the whole cushion cover! However, more on that in the next post. (And I haven’t forgotten the autumn quilt which started this blog! It’s just another one that’s on hold, but normal service will resume after Christmas, which will I think be nice).

Fought the (not-so-good) quilting fight…

… next for the binding. Ouch.

A week past Sunday, the day after we returned from a week’s holiday, determined to finish the last bit of quilting left after bits fell off my sewing machine before we went away. Most of the time was spent fixing the machine, of course.

Bless him, hubby took screwdriver to the sewing machine, and worked out the small blade which had come off with a clunk along with everything else was the thread cutter. No, I hadn’t realised the machine had one, or indeed had ever used it! He reattached, but when I came to thread the machine the shaft which rotates with the needle threader didn’t turn as far as was needed to reach the needle. So he had to take it apart again and adjust, so all was well (I thought).

I decided that as well as doing the last tiny bit I was going to pull out two short rows near the corner where stitching was noticeably weird. It definitely looks better for it. You can see on this picture where the stitches on a plain green block were really long, for reasons I haven’t established, and can see by the puncture holes how long they were compared with what it looks like now.


All was not ‘quite’ fixed, however, because a problem I’d noticed for a while got much worse, in that the front of the walking foot was lifting, tilting rather, so that the top didn’t seem to be coming into contact with the fabric at all, so not much pressing happening with the presser foot. I had been pushing it back down with my finger, but it only stayed put for a few stitches. So again, husband attacked it with the screwdriver – given that he had things he would rather have been doing himself before we were both back at work the next day, I felt a bit guilty but overcame the feeling for the greater good!

Eventually, the quilting was finished, but if I’m going to do any more of this I need to invest in a proper walking foot that is meant for the machine I’ve got.

I’ve spent evenings during the rest of the intervening week, when I wasn’t doing other things or staring into space being tired, cutting strips to make the binding and starting to sew them together. I finished sewing the last of them last night, and trimmed down the edges of the quilt. I found the strips hard to cut when they were from the 1/2 metre long piece of fabric, because try as I might the fabric still stretched a bit under the ruler, so the edges aren’t as straight as I’d like. I’m going to make it a 1/2 inch binding, so think that rather than draw a line a 1/4 inch from the edge that’s to be sewn on, I’ll draw it a 1/2 inch from the fold that will form the finished edge (don’t think I expressed that very well, sorry). I’ve only ever done double binding with mitred corners, though have never made a very good job of the corners and when I first did one spent an inordinate amount of time on YouTube trying to fathom it out. The ones I’ve done have also only been small things, and I don’t know how I’ll manage with larger quantities and the sewing machine, except that I read I’m to do longer stitches. But being aware that the back has to be sewn by hand and that that will take ages, I’m getting rather anxious about time. I think I’ve now three weekends until it has to be ready, and I know I’ll have lots on for two of those weekends as my husband’s family are visiting from Australia. I spent loads of time this weekend tidying, dusting, and sorting clothes to take to the charity shop, or I would have been further ahead! I think the majority of that’s done, so I’m hoping I can get the front of the binding stitched on this weekend. If only it wasn’t 5 days away! You never know, I may get a bit done on a couple of evenings, but what in the morning I think I’ll do that night, and what come the night time I’m actually capable of doing, are two different things.

Quilt and binding, ready to go!

Close, but no cigar

Quick post, because leaving for Wales any minute now. Wanted to finish quilting ‘Auntie Syl’s quilt’ (the pink machine-stitched quilt for my aunt for Christmas) before I left for holiday, leaving the joys of the binding to come back to. Last weekend feeling tired and unwell so nothing happened on the Saturday. On Sunday, more problems with stitch lengths and my inability to keep the machine running on an even keel. I changed the needle, and my husband came up with something made of balsa wood to stick under the pedal so I couldn’t push it down all the way and it didn’t go so fast. I made decent progress and the stitches were a better length, though far from perfect and I had to unpick a section because got a fold of fabric caught up at the back. I didn’t think I’d finish it by today, though. However, I did a bit each night except Monday and it was going quite well, though with different problems on the back that looked like the tension was wrong, even though I hadn’t changed it from the setting that had previously worked best. I went hard to it last night, then the foot started making these awful clunking noises, but it was way after I should have been in bed so I soldiered on. Then, when I was literally – no word of a lie! – on the very last row, on the very last corner, the presser foot fell off! I couldn’t believe it. I was going to attach the ordinary foot, thinking it would be fine for those last few inches, but then realised the bit you attach the foot to wasn’t there. It must be still attached to the walking foot, but by then it was beyond me to work it out, and I still had other things to do for today, so I had to leave it. Argh! So, today it’s rolled up, with a few moth balls that I bought yesterday (I’ve had a couple get in there and do not want them eating a big hole in the thing) and which I pray don’t leak and do do their job, to be left til next weekend. My husband’s family are coming next weekend for a few weeks and I think that will limit the time I can spend on, probably only leaving two weekends before I have to have the quilt ready to take home with me when I go to visit my parents before Christmas, so really a lot less time than it looks on paper, and I know the binding won’t be easy.

I’ve other, smaller, craft projects packed to take with me for this week, hope I haven’t left anything behind!



My struggles with machine quilting (= more grey hairs)

Last weekend (yes, it’s taken me this long to write about it) I wanted to do lots of machine quilting on the pink quilt, having had the notion I’d like to finish the quilting before I go away the weekend after next (yet another ambition unlikely to be fulfilled, at least whilst keeping a grip on sanity, such as it is). Alas I seem not only to be in less control of the pedal than ever, but the machine is producing stitches of different lengths, some so tiny they’re not much bigger than a pinprick, and really tight. I tried refitting the bobbin like last time, but it hasn’t helped. I read it may be that the quilting foot isn’t compatible, but I don’t want to buy another and have done so much with it already I’ll just have to soldier on. When I’d done a few inches on one row and then saw how bad it was I pulled it out, but could barely get the seam ripper under the stitches. Here are some examples, bearing in mind the one I pulled out was even worse:

I’ve now got so many bad bits, in terms of wonky lines and other things that don’t look good, that I’m having to let go of my more perfectionist tendencies and get used to the idea that it looks like something a 5 year old’s had a go at (probably my sewing machine user age!). I think the most glaring is the pinwheel which I failed to notice didn’t meet the neighbouring square at the right point for the point of the pinwheel to be in the corner of the square. I only realised when I quilted over it and the quilting line was fairly straight but sits about half a centimetre, or more, away  from the central diagonal of the pinwheel. With pink stitching over a plain bright green fabric, this is more than a teensy bit obvious! Another goody is where I lifted the needle to shift a bit of renegade masking tape, and failed to put the needle back in exactly the same spot, which again I didn’t notice until it was too late. Coincidentally, that’s on a pinwheel too! The squares that were meant to be one of the best features are turning into the things that highlight the worst parts.

Last weekend I was almost a gibbering wreck, so must avoid that this weekend and accept I won’t finish it by self-imposed deadline, but will have finished it for when I need it in December, and that it will be distinctly amateurish. At least it’ll be okay from a distance !

The current state of things:

In the last 30 mins of my lunchbreak I am off to find aniseed balls, hooray! Shame I’ve done something to my toe, seem to have crushed it under me at a strange angle whilst hunkering down on a concrete floor labelling manuscripts which were resting on a 2-inch high box in the absence of any better working space, and now can’t bend it and it’s rather sore. This may hamper my aniseed ball hunt, so had best limp off now…

Starting to machine quilt

Last weekend I put together the quilt sandwich for the machine-stitched pink quilt, for my aunt. I’ve had more fun! First, on Friday night, I cleaned the machine (which I’ve never done before) and fitted the quilting / walking / easy feed foot. Mercifully, that went fine and I see now what a big difference having the foot makes. The clunking sound as it goes along is quite noticeable, and for some reason the stitching seems to be going faster, it sometimes takes me by surprise (like my attempts to drive). I tested various tensions on the sample mini quilt, and thought I’d got the right one (minus 2).

Saturday brought putting it all together. I used low-adhesive masking tape to tape the back to the floor and spent ages, with my husband’s help, marking the diagonal lines for quilting, using quilter’s tape. I’ve never used it before, but in my one previous attempt at diagonal lines I used yellow chalk and unfortunately didn’t realise you couldn’t sew over the top of it without getting permanent yellow lines across the quilt. Plus, the bits I didn’t sew over rubbed off, and I found I couldn’t see pencil lines, and am scared to use the wipe-off pen in case it doesn’t wipe off. I know you’re supposed to test it first, but given how many different fabrics I use it would get silly,  and I still wouldn’t feel safe. I did realise I’d have to cut gaps in the masking tape where the lines crossed, but still thought it the best option. I didn’t realise the roll of quilter’s tape wouldn’t go that far, so just had to trust that the low-adhesive masking tape my husband uses for his crafting wouldn’t mark the fabric.

Quilt sandwich (before pinning) with lines marked out

Then I pinned it in place, or tried to. Not so easy when it’s taped to the floor!

I sewed quilting lines corner to corner, and the line either side of the central one, managing just two lines on Saturday and four on Sunday. Husband had to help me, because I couldn’t get quilt to move forward under my own steam, the weight of it meant the needle sometimes went up and down on the spot, so he sat opposite me and lifted it. I got some rucks underneath – maybe bad pinning? – and unpicked on line for a bit to get to the ruck, tied the threads together and hid the knot inside the quilting, then picked it up on the machine and redid it, but I am not keen to do that again, it was difficult and not neat.

The other, main, big problem came on Sunday, after I’d refilled the bobbin on Saturday night. Only after I’d done a whole line did I realise something was wrong, because it had started off fine. When I looked, some of the stitches were tiny and pulled hard. Starting the next line, husband noticed that underneath when it came his way the threads had formed little loops. Fortunately because I’d only done a bit I could pull that out, but we then spent ages testing different tensions, reading the instruction book, etc., trying to work out what was wrong. Then I thought it was no coincidence it happened after I’d changed the bobbin, so I tried refitting it. To be honest, I couldn’t see what I’d done wrong / differently, but it still helped. I also moved the pressure regulator wheel (sorry, don’t think that’s what it’s called, but it’s at the front and has 3 settings) so it was on 3 instead of 2, which helped even more, and after that it was okay. I had my shoulders up round my ears, though, and I don’t think the chair I work on is a good height, so had both a headache and a crick in my neck to start Monday morning! There was also the part where I lifted the needle to get a bit of errant masking tape out of the way and didn’t realise I hadn’t put it back on exactly the spot, so that looks bad, and also happens to be on one of the squares with a pinwheel, so the diagonal quilting line runs parallel to, but about half a cm away from, the central diagonal of the pinwheel. All in all, bit of a nightmare! I had wanted to finish the rest of the quilting, but not the binding, before we go away for a week’s break, which gives me only the next two weekends and I’m really not sure if it’s viable. The lines will get shorter, of course, and hopefully I’ve got the tension problems sorted out, so maybe…

But on the whole, not very satisfactory and I don’t know that I’ll do my autumn quilt with the machine. But I would like to make a cushion cover and would use it for that because it’s smaller, and because I’ll do all the patchwork by hand the corners of the blocks should meet so I can just ‘stitch the ditch’, which I couldn’t do on the pink quilt because the seams where the blocks were joined are wonky and I thought stitching a straight line over the top would make that more noticeable. Though in the end, I don’t know whether it would be better or worse than what I’m doing. Anyway, I’ll use the machine for cushion covers but don’t know that I could face it again for something big.



Pink quilt back and quilting plans


I finished the back of the pink quilt I’m making for my aunt at the weekend – feels like a lifetime ago for some reason! The pink on the top right is too purpley, really, but it does at least go with the butterflies next to it and I felt I did need another bright one amidst all the more ‘ditsy’ florals. Also, have spent a fortune on pink fabrics and couldn’t bear to waste it! The corners match a lot better than they did on the front, with only one square that’s off and fortunately not by much. My measuring wasn’t brilliant on a couple of the outer pieces, but it won’t matter once it’s quilted and they’re trimmed.

Below is the best of the six needle-turn applique flowers I did for the front, once I changed technique after the first couple. Glad I’ve tried it, but would be in no hurry to go down that route again! (And hoorah, I’ve rediscovered how to make images smaller on the website).


Now I’m psyching myself for the actual quilting. I’ve been reading up and decided that I definitely need a quilting / even feed / walking foot for my machine. I’d been put off because one person I know told me she’s never needed one, and another told me hers had cost £100! But everyone else says they’re a must, and when I looked online you can get them much cheaper. I’ve opted for an unbranded one that’s meant to fit most machines, so just hope mine’s one of them and it works okay. I didn’t want to spend loads of money so took the cheap option, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping it arrives by the weekend. I feel reassured by people saying that rolling up the quilt will get it through the machine, because one my main concerns has been how to get the bulk of it through the gap between the needle and the main body of the machine! I read that bicycle clips are good for keeping it in place.

I’ve made a small square of nine 4-inch blocks from left-overs and a piece of a bundle I think I was given or bought from somewhere like Hobbycraft when I first started, to practise tension and stitch length on and get a feel of what the walking foot is like; though realistically I don’t think such a small trial will be terribly helpful. I couldn’t face the thought of just wasting the wadding as part of the trial, but don’t really know what use a small pinky-purpley square mat is going to be, it’s not a colour scheme I’ll be putting in my sitting room, and I don’t know any little girls who might like it!

Now to hope foot and machine-quilting thread I ordered arrive by the weekend so I can get on with it…

Two blocks with new rosehips fabric (+ pink quilt update)

These are my latest two blocks, put together over the last 2-3 weeks, both using a new rosehips fabric I bought from Laughing Hedgehogs. I also got one in brown, which I’m working with now. I’m pleased to have got some more of the woodland animals fabric, which I think is nice and autumnal. Haven’t put all the blocks together for a while, to see how messy / overly orange it looks when they’re all together!

I’ve been focussing on the pink quilt at weekends, in between other commitments (what with swimming, driving lessons, and / or church events my weekends seem to vanish distressingly quickly), trying to make the back. Last weekend I realised that my plan A of 3 x 3 squares wouldn’t work because I needed fabric bigger than fat quarters, which is mostly what I have. So I decided on a 4 x 4 design, but am making the outer ‘squares’ larger, so that the ones in the middle of the four sides are actually rectangles, but once they’re cut down after quilting they’ll look square-ish. I had several disasters cutting fabric last weekend, it turns out bigger ones are hard to cut accurately with the rulers I had, so having wasted fabric and driven myself mad I sent for a 15 x 15 inch square ruler (bigger would have been better because the outer pieces are 17 x 17 at the corners and 14 x 17 in the middle of the sides, but the cost was against me) and more fabric. Some of the fabric wasn’t how I’d thought it would look in the online photos, so I’ve ended up with more ‘stash’ than I started with – argh!!! But still, I’ve eventually got the pieces cut, sometimes using two rulers alongside each other, and have decided where they’re going to be placed (taken a photo to remind myself) and have made up two of the four rows. I’d love to have all four made up and sewn together by this weekend, but me and the sewing machine are bad enough at the best of times, even less good friends at night. Yesterday I did 6 seams in total and two of them had to be pulled out again. I’m so nervous about quilting it when the happy day eventually comes, I may need to do deep breathing exercises in advance!

Pink quilt top – finished!

At last, I’ve finished my first larger-scale machine stitched quilt top. I think the colours look better in real life, the sun must have gone behind a cloud when I took this. Its only predecessor is a c. 12 x 24 inch sample I tried with a fat quarter bundle as my first ever experiment with quilting. After that, I took refuge in hand sewing! As mentioned in previous posts, this is a long way from perfect; I would say that only 50-60% of the corner actually meet, and the sides aren’t the same lengths. I measured the top as 53 inches wide but the bottom as 54, and the sides are 53 1/4 and 53 3/4. But I did the best I could and must plough on! There was fair amount (ok, lots) of use of the seam ripper, but on the plus side I think I use the machine better  than I did.

Next step is to make the back, which I think is just going to be big squares. I mostly couldn’t get the same fabrics, just one fat quarter which was part of a bundle I used for the front and must have been duplicated, but I’ve got a lovely butterfly fabric. Some I bought online turned out not to look so good in the flesh (one had a blue/lilac background I completely failed to notice in the picture on ebay), so I’m going to end up with as big a stash as I had before starting this, and one of my motivations was to decrease the stash! I haven’t decided what size to make the squares, because of having to make the back bigger than the front then trim it down after quilting, and I’m painfully aware that the quilting lines won’t be equal on back and front. But most of all, I’m nervous about the quilting itself: not so easy to use the seam ripper when there’s wadding involved. So I’m going to practise on smaller pieces just to get a feel for how the machine works and which stitch to use. Also, my mother-in-law is interested in helping and would like to see how my machine operates. I also have to establish where to buy larger pieces of wadding. One step at a time. On the plus plus side, my attempts at needle-turn applique with the flower shapes got better after the first two.

Pink quilt progress

This is the machine-stitched pink quilt top as of last weekend. IMGP0782

5 rows stitched, another 7 to go. I’ve found it tough going, and am amazed afresh by what amazing things people proficient at machine stitching (unlike me) can do. Rows 1 and 2, I would say about half of the corners met. Stupidly, I then decided that as the stitching foot is 1/4 inch wide, and always seemed to coincide with the lines I’d drawn, I would then not draw lines on the backs of the squares in row 3. When I sewed it onto the other two rows (this was done a few weeks ago, I’ve lost track) the corner success rate was about the same as first time round, so I repeated it for row 4. Big mistake! The whole thing ended up being about half an inch out, so I had  to unpick it all, identify where in particular it went wrong, unstitch a couple of squares from each other, and put it back together again. Better, but two squares are joined together with each having a 1/2 inch seam! For the next row I re-measured all squares, but all were fine, and drew lines on. They still didn’t match the row above, but I worked that out before joining the two rows (phew), so only had to unpick one join. Had to reattach it with one of the squares having a 1/2 inch seam, though, which isn’t good. Weirdly, when I joined the two rows together they were almost all exactly right at the corners, I think just two were off.

You can see here the horrible stepped effect mismatched corners caused in some of my rows:


Also the joys of trying needle-turn applique for the first time! That’s really hard, too… I couldn’t manage the invisible stitching and didn’t really understand the bit in Linda Clements’ book about putting in the stitches at right angles to the fabric, so followed a YouTube video which shows the lady putting in tiny little stitches right up close to the line. I think I picked a difficult shape to start with, though, and it looks jagged where it should be smoother. Still, practice makes perfect, and I don’t think the aunt I’m making this for will mind.

This is the last row, with the improved corners:


I’d like to do more like these, and so actually make good use of my nice sewing machine!

I did all the pinwheels before laying out the design, but am doing the applique as I go along, to make me feel like I’m making progress and have a bit of variety in what I’m doing. I’ve decided to do applique flowers on alternate rows, so am only doing 6. Two done, one just started, and 3 to go. Those I can at least do on the train; when I’ve been doing things on the machine, it’s frustrating having to leave it behind and go out to work!