Quilted pillowcase front

I finished quilting the front of the big square pillowcase on Sunday (not Saturday as I’d intended!) and am pleased with the result. I’ve wanted to try quilting lines parallel to the seams of the square patches for a while, but the first time I tried it was a disaster, so my skills with the sewing machine must have improved – that, and getting a quilting foot. I can’t do a few backward stitches to anchor it like you’re supposed to because I find it hard to see exactly where the needle is and I don’t want to overshoot the edges, so I sew them all in by hand which is time-consuming.

I was inspired by (i.e. copied) the quilting on a quilt I bought from a catalogue years ago, before I started doing patchwork, but for various reasons only brought out of its packet this year after we moved house. It’s lovely shades of green and yellow with a little bit of white and blue floral mixed in, and has squares in the middle then strips round the outside. That quilting pattern is the squares-within-the-squares thing then parallel lines around the edges where the strips are, so I put two parallel lines round my mitred borders. I decided they’d be too close together if I made them equidistant, but that one line only would look daft, so the space between the squares and the first line is 6/8 inch like the lines within the squares, then the outermost line is 1/2 inch from that.

The second photo is of the back of the quilting because you can see the pattern more clearly. You can also see where I’ve got threads that still need to be sewn in!

Sorry if the blue background looks odd, I took it outside to photograph because the light’s better and needed something to keep the item off the ground, and this is all I had to hand. Taking it outside has actually made it look over-exposed; the colours are darker / brighter in real life, more like in my previous post. But I’m no photographer!


Next step is to finish sewing the ends in then to sew the front to the two back pieces. Before I do that I also need to hem the edges of the back pieces where they overlap for the pillow to be inserted.

Mum’s Christmas present

I know, it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m writing about Christmas! I had to wait until after Christmas Day to share this post because it’s about the present I made for my mum, and I didn’t want to spoil the surprise in case she read my blog. A week’s passed since Christmas, and I’ve been trying to finish two projects that for psychological reasons only, I wanted to have finished by the New Year. Haven’t managed either, of course, but one awaits only tassels and the other really only needs another day, so I’m writing this now lest another thing I wanted to do by the New Year isn’t done! Ignoring a pile of ironing in the process, of course.

I started this in October, having seen a fab fabric by Lewis and Irene, featuring farmyard animals which though cartoon versions, were recognisable breeds – belted Galloway cows and Herdwick sheep, for example. My Mum’s a Knitter (capitals intended) and I thought this would be a great fabric with which to make a knitting bag. Plus, I’ve never made a bag before or grappled with lining. I bought the main fabric and another consisting only of sheep, also by Lewis & Irene, from one website; they were discontinued. I got them all from the same manufacturer because I’ve learned the hard way from my autumn quilt that matching fabrics by different designers is hard, not just regarding colour, but also the thickness of the cotton. I wanted a third because the two blended together too much, but on a second website found another featuring pheasants which I really liked, so it had to go in even though it blended a bit, then another that was from a different Lewis and Irene range, with the same theme but with much smaller design elements, more ‘ditsy’, and which had a matching but dark teal background so acted as my contrast.

I bought a pattern from Etsy, though it was for jelly roll strips and I wanted to do squares, so I changed the sizing a bit. I cut strips with help from my husband, who helpfully pointed out that if I just went for it with the farmyard one I’d be cutting off some animal heads! I’ve been known to do that before. I made sure to cut it in the direction that would leave me pieces of the right size for the strip across the top and for straps etc. Then the fun part of cutting squares (I ended up cutting a square-shaped hole in a piece of paper and holding it over the farmyard fabric to make sure I got the best scenes! Followed of course by ages arranging the squares just so.

The squares for the two sides of the bag, sewn together:

side 2 comp

side 1 comp


I sewed strips across the top, as per the instructions, and decided to make the base from the same fabric as the lining. It’s probably the least exciting of the four fabrics! Then I quilted it, just doing diagonal lines across the squares. Same as I always do, I’ve never been brave enough to try anything else. BUT this  was the first time using the new quilting foot Mum got me last Christmas after the cheap one I bought online first didn’t work well, then broke completely. This one was so much better, definitely a case of ‘you get what you pay for’. Thank you, Mum and Dad!

quilted comp
Two sides and base of the bag-to-be after quilting


Getting the squares to meet on the side seams when putting them together after  quilting is hard because you can’t see the squares from the reverse because of the quilt line. I  had one unpick and redo, and it still isn’t perfect, but it’s okay. More annoyingly, I didn’t think to make the outside squares into rectangles, making them wider to accommodate the 3/8 – 1/2 inch seam allowance required for sewing the sides of the bag together rather than the 1/4 inch for patchwork squares, so the quilting doesn’t have continuity at the edges, which looks messy. It would never have been perfect, but it would have been less obvious.

sides not quite matching comp

I didn’t have enough fabric to make the lining from a single piece, but it worked out well because using two pieces meant the sheep on each side of the bag could all be facing the right way up! No spacesheep swirling in zero gravity. I had to put a little piece in between the two, just because of the amount of fabric I had, but I think it’s okay. Unfortunately the interfacing I had wasn’t good and I had some problems getting it to stick.

lining comp

I made the pocket and the straps from the teal background with ditsy-ish hens; sewing a 1/8 inch topstitch down the sides of the straps wasn’t easy and the result a bit wobbly, but when I unpicked the wobbly one quite late at night and redid it, only to then realise it  wasn’t the wobbly one I’d just done but the okay one, I decided to pack that in and just leave it alone. Sewing on the strap ends to the top of the back within a very small seam allowance, as per the instructions as I understood them, means I don’t think it would bear much weight. My attempt at it was messy, but you don’t see it when it’s finished.

strap attached comp
Strap sewn to top of bag


inside out comp
The lining pinned face-to-face with the outer bag, ready to be sewn together.

I had immense difficulty fathoming out what the instruction for the base of the bag meant. Triangles were involved, and scarily, ‘snipping’ off their points (for ‘snipping’, read ‘hacking off 3 inches of material’). I only worked it out by setting up the bag as it would look when finished and trying various origami-type set-ups til the right one presented itself. Better diagrams in the pattern would have been appreciated. It’s amazing how often I find myself puzzled by pattern instructions; I think that’s where YouTube comes in. Still not sure it’s quite right, unless the edges are meant to have a fold a bit in from where they join the side fabric:

base comp

I left a hole in the lining and, again late at night, having sewn around the top of the lining and outer bag, with difficulty, and in a scene less bloody than ones on farming programmes but still reminiscent of calving, pulled the outer bag through the gap in the inner lining.

Only to find….

something missing comp

no handles!

I’d trapped them between the bag and lining. So had to unpick it and do it again. Though I only unpicked the parts where the handles were, tied off the ends, and redid that part, thus avoiding the tricky bit where the side seams of the bag meet. I find sewing circular or tubular shaped things on the sewing machine really hard.

almost finished comp
More like it!

Then after the magical ‘big reveal’ of turning it the right way round, some top stitching to keep it in place, and it was finished.

finished bag comp

side 2 finished comp

side 1 finished comp


A Happy New Year to all!

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!

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.