Monday, 29 March 2010

Poodles on Parade

Here's some excerpts from an email I received from Jan. Jan bought a New English Quilter a couple of months ago. She just emailed me about her progress and with her permission I'm going to share some excerpts. It's so encouraging to see what creative people do! If you click on the photo  you'll get a great view of Jan's quilting.

Hi Martha,

Thought you would be interested to see my first attempt on the NEQ. After weeks of practicing, and with other already started projects to complete, I was getting a bit frustrated. However, the imminent arrival of a dear friends first grandchild was the impetus I needed. I dithered for ages about fabric – but when I saw Michael Miller's Pink Poodles, and knew that was the fabric I wanted to use.

 By this time, the baby was due!   So, I chose a quick and easy pattern (Pastel Playmates by Sandy Caller - AP&Q Vol18 No8), and within 8 days had completed the quilt!  And that was with a broken ankle, struggling with crutches and hopping about on one leg!!

Anyway, my experience with the NEQ was brilliant.  I opted for a daisy/loop chain, which I had found to be one of the patterns that I felt comfortable with.  Loading up the frame was a bit tricky on one leg, but with the help of Dave and his mother, it was soon done. I am so pleased with the result.   The new baby arrived last Wednesday, and I hope to get to see her and deliver my gift this week. So, thank you Martha.  You certainly gave me the confidence to just 'go for it'.

Thanks Jan for sharing. I love it when people show me their quilts. It’s hard to believe that this was your first quilt on the frame and you managed this ON crutches!! Fantastic! I can't wait to see what you get up to on two feet!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Ice Cream Cake

We've just made it most of the way through March Madness. It happens around this time every year; four of our six children have birthdays in March and then there's English mother's Day and our wedding anniversary. I've also had a charity quilt to finish and a DVD to complete editing. Exciting times.

I have a fantastic recipe for ice cream cake I'd like to share. If you have small children you may have noticed that no matter how much time or money you spend on a birthday cake, children rarely eat it. Perhaps they get down a bit of the icing but most of the cake goes in  the bin. This ice cream cake is the exception to this rule. It always disappears completely. I have never thrown any of it in the bin! It is relatively inexpensive, simple to make, fun to decorate and easy to adapt to the tastes and interests of each child.

You will need a spring form cake pan, several different kinds of ice cream or sorbet and a topping of your choice. For this version, I've chosen caramel and mint chocolate chip ice cream and raspberry sorbet. It's a good idea to start the day before the party, but if needed you'll manage the morning before.

First leave the ice cream out for 20 minutes so it begins to soften. Then choose the bottom layer and spoon it in the pan and spread it around. Get it nice and smooth and then rinse the spoon and choose the next layer.

I've gone for the raspberry sorbet here mainly for the colour. Spoon it in then spread it around.

Rinse the spoon in warm water and start the next layer. Here I'm using mint chocolate chip.For this cake I kept it to three, but other years I've used more layers. Use as many as you like then put some cling film on top and pop it into the freezer.It will need over night or most of the day to re-freeze properly.

Just before you're ready to serve the cake, take it out of the freezer and run a knife around the edge. Then release the spring and slip off the edge of the pan.

Now you're ready to add the topping. I've chosen a chocolate cracklin topping. It's soft til it hits the cold ice cream then the cold makes it set.

For this cake, I've just added candles but other years, depending on the age and interests of the kids, I've added anything from real flowers which look lovely, to all sorts of plastic figures like snow white and the seven dwarves,  bat man,  star wars figures or horses, what ever makes their little hearts sing. A trip through the dishwasher makes the plastic nice and clean and the cake is unique, tailored to the particular child, delicious and enjoyed by all!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Make it Pink!

My preference was blue but I chose the pink. The quilt was a donation to a friend to raise some money in a silent auction and I thought that the pink would be more popular. I did choose a purply blue for the binding.   I loaded it up on the frame and tried a new quilting design. It's an extension of the mussel shell with a scallop that echoed around the edges.Clicking on the photos will give a good close up of the design.

 I first saw it on one of  Trudi Wood's quilts. But the design turned out a bit different. That's something that I love about free-motion machine quilting - the  way that designs morph from person to person. You glean ideas from other people but as you execute the pattern it changes. I was so happy with how this quilt turned out. A really sweet girl purchased the quilt at the charity lunch today and she loved it - so I was fine about letting it go.You can see more of Trudi's quilts if you visit her blog:

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


Today's going to be a quilting day! I needed to decide which fleece to use for the backing. I couldn't make my mind up at the shop so I bought some of each colour. This morning I laid them both against the top. Then I took a phone call. When I turned back around I found a cat on each fleece. These are mother daughter cats. Here in the UK their colouring is called tortoise shell but in the States we call them calico cats. Obviously, Tipsy likes the purply blue and Gypsy likes the pink! Which one would you choose?

Here's Gypsy again - she likes to be on top of all the stages of my quilt projects.

Friday, 12 March 2010

DVD Progress

Thanks to all of you machine quilters on both sides of 'the Pond' who have pre-ordered our La Mer DVD. I'd like you to meet my film crew, Chris and Nick from Crow's Eye Productions. We've been working together on various projects for years. 

Right now we're in the final editing stages of editing the La Mer DVD. Editing a film is somewhat like making a quilt. There's quite a bit of cutting and pasting involved and a layering of images and words and sounds. Yet the considerable attention to detail creates, in the end a seamless product. Here on the screen is an audio clip of my voice. This editing program allows Nick to cut and paste my voice the same way that we would manipulate fabric to piece a top. Collaborating on the DVD has been great fun and we're all excited to see the various strands coming together. We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

How do I love thee...

Let me count the ways ... For this post I'm going to talk about the features that I love on my Janome 6600. The Janome is my 'off the frame' sewing machine. I use it for piecing, binding and all the sewing tasks I do off the machine quilting frame. This machine is a pure joy to use, so today I'm going to rave about it.

First of all it has a layered fabric feeding system. This means that it will pull multiple layers of fabric evenly through the sewing machine. This is great for accurate piecing and super for machine quilting off a frame.
Second, it's got a longer arm giving 2 inches more space for maneuvering  fabric around.

Third, it has a great set of handy buttons giving you fingertip control for start/stop, reverse, needle up or down and a thread cutter. My son just loved these. When he was little he sat on my lap and pushed the necessary buttons while I pushed the foot pedal and guided the fabric. It was a great way to do a mother/son quilt.
Fourth, there are 2 lights so you can really see what you're doing.
Fifth, there are diagrams on the machine to show you how to thread it and on the bobbin plate to remind you which way the thread should be coming off the bobbin. Being directionally challenged, I love this.

    Sixth, it has an extendable thread guide so I can use the larger top-wound cones ideal for machine quilting. These larger cones are much more economical than the smaller spools, giving you more thread for your money.

    Seventh, it also takes pre-wound bobbins. I really like this too, because I hate having to stop what I'm doing to wind a bobbin.            

     Finally, I love how simple it is to use the special features like writing letters and using the special stitches. It's so easy that even the kids can do it. Here are Rosie and Pete showing their projects.  

    The Janome 6600 has lots of other great features, but these are my favourites. To see the others, follow this link:

    Tuesday, 2 March 2010

    End Notes

    Did you know that selvage can be spelled two ways? Since I started following Karen Griska's selvage blog I've been saving selvages. When we decided to have a Space themed party to celebrate Pete's 10th Birthday, I wanted to make a table runner. I had some great fabric that would be fun to work with. I also had a pile of selvedges that I'd been saving. I've been wanting to use them but wasn't sure how.

    Then I got an idea. Peter was turning 10. I thought that I could use the color dots on the selvedges that went up to 10. And , of course, count downs from 10 went well with the space theme.

    While I was counting dots I started finding some fun words and it occurred to me that I could piece them together to make a message. Martha is such an unusual name, I couldn't believe my luck when I came across it on the edge of some Rowan fabric.

    Monday, 1 March 2010

    Just 4 Fun

    This year, just for fun, we decided to have a Space themed party to celebrate Pete's 10th birthday. The space theme left us wide open to include include everything in any space film from the last 30 years; from Luke Skywalker to Mikey from Monsters Inc.

    We dressed up and gave out glow in the dark wands.
    We decorated monster cupcakes and made kiwi aliens.
    The kids had a blast.
    For decorations we were able to use some space/time themed quilts that the kids had made years ago for a Festival of Quilts children's competition. And with the left over fabric, stashed away all those years I decided to make a space themed table runner. I'll write more about the table runner tomorrow.