Thursday, 23 July 2009

Off to Cornwall

We're off to Cornwall for a week's holiday. It's been a 8 years since we were last there. The kids are so excited. I'm looking forward to visiting Kynance Cove, Housel Bay and St Michael's Mount. Have a good week!

New JUKI Sewing Machines

The UK JUKI distributors are introducing a new series of JUKI sewing machines this summer at the Festival of Quilts. The "F Series" will have the same taller and wider arm, but with lots of exciting new features. I can't wait to try them out! The new "F Series" JUKI's will be at our stand B7. Garry will be on hand to demonstrate the new features and answer any questions.

This summer The Festival of Quilts seems to be shaping up better than ever. The dates are Thursday - Sunday 20-23 August 2009. We're at stand B7, the second row in on your left as you come from the exhibitions. See you there.

UK Fleece

Fleece makes a wonderful soft snuggly backing especially for children's quilts. Machine quilting on fleece creates a fabulous texture. It's economical too, as it does two jobs, backing and wadding, for the price of one. It's important to get the good quality non-pil polar fleece because the cheap stuff ages badly. But sometimes it is hard to find good quality fleece at the right price. Last month, I stumbled on a great UK site: They have a great selection of colours and patterns. I ordered one day, they processed the order the next and I received the fleece in the post the day after that. I call that quick efficient service. The quality of fleece was fantastic too.

So if you've been wanting to use fleece but having trouble finding it here in the UK. give fabric-online a try. I've put a link on the side to make it easy.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Muscle Beach

I've called this quilt Muscle Beach in honour of one of our favourite Tom and Jerry Cartoons. Of course, the mussel shell free-motion quilting design works too. Years ago, when I started quilting it was all about making the thread work with the fabric. But now sometimes, I do it backwards. Sometimes I start out liking a certain thread and end up choosing the fabric to match. For this quilt, I loved how the Rainbows #803 Northern Lights looked against the black batik. So I pieced a very simple top to show off the thread.

I've used two cones from the Rainbows range of Superior Threads. Click the image for a good close up of the threads.
Tipsy, our cat, really likes how the variegated colours of Northern Lights #803 and Jester #801 stand out against the black batik. It's such a lovely backdrop for her tortoise shell coat.

The fleece backing makes it so nice to snuggle in.

What is it with cats and quilting frames? Our cat Tipsy thinks the New English Quilter is the best hammock ever! We were considering creating special frames just for cats, but then, of course, they wouldn't use them!

DVD Filming

We've been busy the last few weeks preparing scripts and piecing quilt tops to get ready for the filming sessions of our machine quilting DVD. La Mar, like the song has a seaside theme and will be the first in a series of DVD's that focus on no-mark free-motion techniques for table top frames. The aim is to equip frugal quilters with basic frames to get the most out of their quilting systems.

La Mar is the first DVD in our Line Dancing Series. Living here in England, we're never far from the sea. Taking our cue from nature, we'll be forming patterns based on the long line of sea and sky, the rhythmic movements of water and the orderly patterns of sea shells. In this DVD, all the line designs flow from the sea.

This DVD is for anyone who wants to become more fluent at free-motion quilting. You'll see me using using a very basic set up; a JUKI sewing machine on a simple table top frame called the New English Quilter. I'm using an ergonomically designed set of handles called Nifty Grips. These replace my foot pedal and allow me to adjust the speed from my center with my fingers or thumbs. There are many super sewing machines and machine quilting frames on the market. No matter what system you are using the principles remain the same. The free-motion techniques demonstrated here can be used by any machine quilter on any frame.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Trial Run

I tried the Nifty-Grips prototype last night. They're brilliant! This set has been designed to replace the foot pedal on my JUKI TL98 P. Here's a photo of Nifty-Grips attached to my New English Quilter frame. Being right handed, I've attached the Grips to the left of my carriage - this allows me to see the needle clearly.

I've asked my daughter to hold up the Handi-Handles so you can see them side by side. The Grips are much smaller than the Handles. But perhaps the biggest difference is the placement of your hands. The Handles were gripped from the side and pushed forwards towards the machine. But with Nifty-Grips your hands fall naturally downward with arms extended from the elbows at waist level. They've been ergonomically designed to provide a natural resting place for your hands.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I managed without Handi-Handles for a couple of years. So when I did finally get them I kept on holding the machine instead of the Handles because I felt like I had better control. Also I'm tall - 5'7" and I found the handles just too low to be comfortable. So I did really appreciate the speed control but didn't use the actual handles.

The grips feel different, natural to hold, easy to guide because I am in complete control. I don't need to take my hands off the grips to alter the speed. I can reach the speed control and on off buttons with my thumbs.

Anyway, I'm thrilled that the prototype was finished in time for the DVD filming today. We should have grips ready for JUKI and Janome sewing machines in time for the Festival of Quilts this August. Nifty Grips for other sewing machines will follow soon.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Nifty-Grips ~ Coming Soon!

I'll get to the flamingo in a minute. I began machine quilting in earnest back in 2003. I spent my first couple of years, with a 30 year old school's Bernina on a SuperQuilter frame, kicking the foot pedal across the floor. I never really stood on one foot, I always kept my weight on my heel and operated the foot pedal from the side with my toes. This helped me to keep my balance. Not ideal exactly, but you have to start somewhere.
A few years later, we introduced the New English Quilter and I upgraded to a JUKI TL98 P and purchased this gadget called Handi-Handles. These handles replaced the foot pedal with a hand guided speed control dial. I found it so much easier to work from my center rather than have my foot doing one thing while my hands did something else. This meant that I didn't have to kick the foot pedal across the floor anymore. Now that I'm used to a hand guided speed control I could never go back.
Unfortunately, the Handi-Handles company ceased trading last December. This created a real problem for machinequilters using table top frames. To fill the gap, we've created a new UK version called Nifty-Grips. We'll be introducing Nifty-Grips at the Festival of Quilts this August. You can visit us at stand B7 and try them out. We didn't want to leave you standing on one foot!