Saturday, 31 December 2011

Photo Finish

cutting gingerbread cookies
Here's a photo finish to 2011. This new version of blogger is giving a good close up view when you click on the images.Celebrating the 12 days of Christmas gives us a chance to spread out the festivities. New Year's Eve falls on the 7th Day and our friends Simon and Angie came to visit with three small children Teresa, Annie and baby Joe.  I managed to get the binding on their table runner just before they arrived!  Since the table runner had a gingerbread theme we got out our favourite cookie cutters and made gingerbread biscuits.

finished products
Christmas table runners
the process start to finish

Pieced on the JUKI Exceed 600, I connected all the runners together with sashing so that I would only need to load the frame once. The sashing came in handy later.
Auditioning various threads
I used the Holly and Ivy thread from the King Tut range on one of the runners.
The Gingerbread runner needed ginger thread! MasterPiece #158 Moccasin
I used this hearts and loops pattern on two of the runners.Here it is in the King Tut 'Holly and Ivy'
All the runners were backed with green fleece.
While the project was on the frame the sashing fabric that joined the runners  was a perfect place to practice stitching and get the tension working right.
Once off the frame, I sliced off the sashing fabric. Now the runners were ready for binding.
Angie loved her present and everybody else enjoyed the ginger biscuits!

Friday, 30 December 2011

Film Shoot

Emily and Thomas dancing to 'Beyond the Sea'
We had a film shoot today for the new Line Dancing DVD. We were really lucky to catch a brilliant dancer, Thomas while he was home for the holidays. We were also delighted to be able to use the Kinema in the Woods as our venue.

The Kinema in Woodhall Spa
The Kinema in Woodhall Spa is the last remaining back projection cinema. Going to the Kinema is like entering a time warp. The amazing 1940's ambiance makes it the perfect backdrop to feature a Line Dancing DVD designed around a Bobby Darin song. We think that the stills are brill! But the moving version is even better.We apply the same techniques that make the dancing fun and fab to machine quilting!

Our new 'Beyond the Sea' Line Dancing DVD uses the repeated movements of scalloping and echoing to maneuver around our available machine quilting space. The curtain captures it all! Beyond the Sea, our next Lind Dancing DVD will be out soon!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas Table Runners

My Mom's blue and green table runner on the 8 foot New English Quilter frame
Over the years I've collected a lovely stash of Christmas fabric. Some years I am just so overwhelmed that I get it out, look at it and put it back in the basket. This year I decided to do some really simple stripy table runners for presents. Keeping it simple made it more likely for me to finish in time for Christmas. The stripes work for me as what I really like is the look of the fabrics next to each other. And now, ever since I've been using a frame, it is the machine quilting that gives the magic touch.

My least favourite thing about machine quilting is loading the quilt on the frame. Don't get me wrong, it's way better than being on my hands and knees with hundreds of safety pins or basting or glueing! Anyway, this time I decided to make several runners and sew them together with some strips of fabric. That way I would only need to load the frame once and I could get right to my favourite part - the machine quilting.

Thread auditioning - going for the gold!
Being 'bleak mid winter' it is hard to get enough natural light for a good photo. But here they are all loaded on the frame.This first runner is for my Mom - she loves blue and green. It's fun deciding which threads to use. They're all gorgeous but I decided on the gold metallic from Superior Threads. These metallic threads are a pleasure to sew with! I'm using a Titanium coated 100/16 Topstitch needle, which is, by the way, exactly the same as a Metallic needle! The larger eye gives the thread plenty of room to move through the eye without shredding or breaking.

Filigree scroll work line design
The quilting pattern is a no-mark-hand-guided-free-motion pattern that I call 'filigree scroll work'. I like it because it is so easy to manoeuvre all around the quilting space. More to come...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Exceeding Expectations

I've been enjoying using this new JUKI Exceed 600 to do piecing. My seams are soooo straight and there is no puckering at all.When we were in Houston the new JUKI 2010 machines were so popular that we were selling the show demo models right off the frames. On the last day we were without a sewing machine so we decided to put the Exceed on the frame just for fun. I didn't expect it to perform very well on the frame. Boy was I surprised!!
The JUKI Exceed 600 just seemed to float over the top of the quilt. The stitching was amazing! I was surprised. It would be a dream to use for  free-motion quilting sitting at the sewing machine.I still prefer the JUKI TL98-P or the 2010 for machine quilting on a frame because of the longer arm. But for someone who wanted one machine to use on AND off the frame I can heartily recommend the Exceed 600.It definitely exceeded my expectations!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Up Close and personal

Practice makes perfect. This is true, but sometimes practice is just not enough. Sometimes we need help that is Up close and Personal. That is exactly what our Machine Quilting Retreats are for. Being around other machine quilters who are using similar tools is really really helpful. And to be honest the other people on the retreat are just as helpful as the teachers!

Our Machine Quilting Retreads have participants of all levels and we find that everyone learns from everyone else. The smallest things can make the biggest difference. Getting to see and ask questions and get answers takes you to a new level. Getting to look over the shoulders of other machine quilters and listen to the questions that they think of asking helps you grow twice as fast.

The Petwood Hotel is a gorgeous setting. A bit of pampering away from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life is a perfect way to get the new year off to a good start. Setting aside a weekend to focus on a craft that we're all passionate about creates the opportunity for everyone to grow into the 'loving intelligence' that I was waxing lyrical about it the last post.

There will be lovely food, good company, blazing wood fires and plenty of room to spread out and practice on our frames. The retreats are open to day visitors as well as people staying for the nights. There will be three teachers with different areas of expertise so we will be able to give plenty of up close and personal attention. To find our more drop me an email and or follow the link to the Retreats page on the website. A retreat is a great way to start off the New Year and recover from the busy holiday season. Martha, Anne and Trudi wish you all a joyful Christmas and hope to see you at the January Retreat.

Please email or ring with any questions:
Tel: 01526 378057

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Feast of St Nicholas

Today is Saint Nicholas Day. The kids reminded me when they opened the 6th door of the Advent calendar. I love old fashioned Advent calendars, the kind with the pictures instead of the chocolates! In honour of the day, I got out my Christmas fabric stash and started on some Christmas table runners. I'm going to keep them simple and strippy so I'll finish them fast.

St Nicholas was a real person, a bishop in what we now call Turkey. He was famous for doing kind deeds in secret, like putting gold coins in the stockings of some girls who needed a dowry so they could afford to marry. That's why we have bags of chocolate coins at Christmas time.

Say Saint Nicholas really fast 7 times and you'll get Santa Claus.

If you like old fashioned Advent calendars, follow the link. They ship all over the world.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Three Days!

Today our first frame ordered during the Houston Quilt Festival was delivered to Ann in New Hampshire. A 4 foot Art Quilter was collected from my village in Lincolnshire, England on Monday at noon. It arrived in New Hampshire safe and sound today. That's more than 3,000 miles in less than three days! Ann and I are both happy about that!
We are making good progress with the orders. All the frames ordered at the Houston Quilt Festival will be delivered in time for Christmas!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Practical Presents

Superior Threads make the best presents for your quilting friends and family! Visit our shop or have a look at the American site to see what's new. Drop me a quick email and your threads will arrive in plenty of time for Christmas.

For UK and European quilters, I'm putting an order through this week. Send an email with your order by noon on Friday and I'll be able to get your threads for the following week.

We also offer a wrapping and posting service! email:

The Quilt Show has a blog post today about Maria Elkin's Windblown Quilt. Follow the link and you can see a clip of the interview.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

"All my byself!"

When my daughter Ellie was very little she would say"All my byself!" to mean that she was delighted to accomplish something on her own, all by myself! My husband and I thought that her mixed up phrase was very sweet!

Even as we grow older (and older still!) that sense of personal satisfaction is deeply rewarding. There is a child-like sweetness that fills me when I accomplish a project. The English word for it is chuffed - a slang term meaning 'really pleased, proud or happy with yourself!' This is why I love machine quilting and also why I love teaching machine quilting. There is such a tremendous sense of accomplishment when something that you have imagined is now complete in your hands! And when someone else also completes a project, perhaps a quilt top that has lain dormant for months or years and is suddenly taken up and completed easily and quickly to what seemed earlier to be an unbelievably high standard. I would say Ellie is definitely chuffed!

This is one of the best features of our New English Quilter frames. Our frames help ordinary quilters to complete extra-ordinary quilts. Even beginning quilters can complete projects easily, quickly and to a high standard. We teach a no mark method of hand guided free-motion machine quilting, on a simple, affordable table top frame using a domestic sewing machine. Anyone willing to put into practice our simple instructions will be able to have the satisfaction of completing their own quilts. So much for waxing philosophical! Doing it yourself is also way less expensive!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Tips from Maria Elkins

I just love this quilt! Perhaps it's because I have two red headed daughters. It's called 'Windblown'. I came across a photo before we went to the Houston show and I emailed Maria to ask permission to post about it. When Maria emailed back and generously agreed, I took the opportunity to ask a few questions:
"I am interested in how you went about making the quilts. What sewing machine do you use? Are you using a frame or sitting down at the machine? What threads do you like? What would be you best tip to someone starting out? Is there someone particular who inspired you? Do you have a fine arts background?"
And much to my delight Maria replied:
"Yes, I have a fine arts background. I took art and drawing classes in junior high and high school. I went to college and was an art major with an emphasis in textiles. A year after I got married, I dropped out of college,we moved, and we had kids. Twenty years later, I went back to college to finish my fine arts degree, but this time with an emphasis in printmaking. (The second college didn't recognize fiber as fine art.)"
"Embrace 1" is based on a series of woodblock prints that I had done in college. As a result, the quilt version is just an experimental piece for me. I wanted to play with an image that was a bit more abstract."
"Windblown" is a hand painted, wholecloth quilt of a young lady who I've known since she was 7. In the background, I really wanted to focus on wind-like fantasy feathers."
"I use a Janome 6500. I do not use a frame. I sit down when I quilt. I mostly use Superior Threads. I like using silk thread when I quilt faces. I love using variegated threads when I quilt hair."

"I think beginners should give themselves a break. So often, I hear "I can't___" when they haven't even tried. It's okay to try something and then throw it away if you don't like it. Remember, many of the skills related to quilt making require a lot of practice. I learned to use a sewing machine when I was 9, and I've pretty much sewn non-stop since that time. I learned to free motion quilting on baby quilts that I gave away. That's a great way to learn the skill."
"In the early 1990s, I was first exposed to art quilts through various quilt magazines. In particular, I remember seeing Charlotte Warr Andersen's quilts, and knowing that I wanted to combine my love of drawing people with my love of sewing and quilting."
Wow! I am so inspired! These quilts were even more spectacular in person! Both quilts were listed as finalists for the 2011 Houston Quilt Festival."Windblown" won the Fairfield Master Award for Contemporary Artistry Follow the link to get a peek into the awards evening!

Thank you Maria!!

Friday, 18 November 2011

More with Les

Meet Les Raichert! Les is the man! The horse is called Jimmy. Les lives in Arizona and has a third generation family business selling JUKI sewing machines for industry and home use. We met Les and his wife Rose for the first time at the Houston Quilt Festival where we shared a booth. Les and Rose kept the sewing machines going and Jill, Emily and I demonstrated the frames. We got on really well. Les and Rose were such a pleasure to work with! Les is incredibly knowledgeable about sewing machines. Les and Rose caught the quilting bug at the Houston Show. Now, Les speaks 'Quilter'! He understands what quilters are looking for in a sewing machine and will be able to give you great prices and informed personal service.

The new JUKI 2010 sewing machines from the show are already finding their way into customer's homes and blogs! People love their JUKIs! This blog post links back to an older post which mentions Sharon Schamber. It turns out that ClareAnnettes 'dream machine' purchase was inspired by Sharon Schamber. Sharon is an award winning quilter and a machine quilting guru. We were honoured to meet her when she came round to our booth. Les and Sharon have been friends since they were 19! Here they are beside Sharon's award winning quilt at his year's Houston Quilt Festival. Sharon and her daughter Cristy have an online shop well worth a visit.

If you're looking for a JUKI in America you'll get more with Les! UK quilters can find informed and personal service from the Franklin's Group - the UK JUKI distributors for industrial and domestic sewing machines. Ask for Lawrence or George at the Colchester shop 01206 563955 or Garry at Chelmsford 01245 346300. All these sewing machine guys have test driven JUKI sewing machines on our New English Quilter frames. You can try the sewing machines at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show next week Thursday 24th to Sunday 27th. Look for World of Sewing Hall B stand 155.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

No Fuss Frames

Our heads have been buzzing ever since we got back from the Houston Quilt Festival. This photo gives a glimpse of just how big it was. You can see our stand in the upper right hand corner of the photo. It was very exciting, and a bit scary, to bring our English made machine quilting frame 'across the pond'. We'd received so many emails about our frames from American quilters over the past several years, that we decided to take the plunge. Our Art Quilter and New English Quilter frames were so simple compared to the larger, more complicated and more expensive frames already available in America. Would the American quilters like our frames?

They did! And we were thrilled. We had lots of sales and so many positive comments. People loved the simplicity of the frame, especially how easy it was to set up and take down. People also liked that our frames were aimed at ordinary quilters; people who wanted to finish their own quilts more easily, quickly and to a higher standard without spending a fortune and needing a permanent set up. People liked the warmth of the wood. Husbands particularly liked the thought and attention to detail that went into the design. Machine quilters appreciated how easily the sewing machine glided and how comfortable the speed control Nifty Grip handles were to use. And many people just loved that it was made with love in England yet would only take 3 days to get from our village to their American doorstep. All the photos in this post feature the Union Jack Quilt, on the 6 foot frame, off the frame and you can just glimpse it on the back of the booth in the upper right of the top photo.

So our trip to Houston was a big step into the unknown and totally worth it! For anyone State-side still looking for a show bargain we have the 6 foot Art Quilter and 8 foot New English Quilter demo frames available at a big discount. Email me about the prices. The frame makes a great Christmas present! Gee, order soon and you'll get your frame delivered in plenty of time to make Christmas presents.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Table and Frame Assembly

We've been getting to know Tomek who lives in Poland. He's been researching quilting frames for his wife. Tomek speaks a bit of English and is fluent in Polish and French. Thankfully Emily is reading French at University, so Emily and Tomek have been discussing features to look for in quilting frames and sewing machines (in French!). Using Skype Emily was able to demonstrate the New English Quilter in living colour while we were at the Houston Quilt Festival. Very cool!

Tomek wanted to know how our purpose built table came together so we made a little YouTube clip from some of the footage of our next DVD. A picture is worth a thousand words in any language! This clip shows the 8 foot table assembly followed by the 8 foot New English Quilter frame. Although we have a variety of New English Quilter and Art Quilter frame sizes, the assembly is the same. The You Tube clip was filmed and produced by Nick Loven and Chris Roberts of Crow's Eye Productions. The music is an original guitar piece written and performed by my husband Stephen, called 'Shenandoah'.

Speaking of guitar, the above photos were taken at the Houston Quilt Festival exhibition. This quilt titled Groovy Guitar Reboot was created by Robbi Joy Eklow from Third Lake, Illinois. This piece is a remake of an older quilt inspired by the mother of the guitarist of Robbie's favourite band. I just loved the quilting!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Back from Houston

Houston was fantastic! Here's our booth. Les Raichert took the photo. Les and Rose live in Arizona and sell JUKI sewing machines for industry and home use. If you're looking for a JUKI sewing machine in America, Les is the person to talk to! Les and Rose came down to help us at the show. Rose is on the left of the photo next to me and Emily. Jill, on the right, came down from Ohio to help demo. She was the first person in America to get a New English Quilter and you can read about quilting with kids on Jill's blog! For all of us, this was our first time exhibiting at the Houston Quilt Festival. We had so much fun!

Here's a photo of the set up so you can peak behind the scenes. I think that Quilt shows are magical. You come to some enormous building in a state of purposeful chaos. Trucks and lorries, fork lifts and all manner of trolleys moving all sorts of boxes and bits and pieces. 24 hours later the show opens and a new sort of chaos erupts as 60,000 quilters from all over the globe pour through the doors. We have an amazing time meeting all sorts of people who share our passion for quilting. We demo machine quilting with new JUKI 2010 sewing machines on our New English Quilter frames from 10 in the morning til 7 in the evening.

Then four days later we take it all down again. It's exhausting, hilarious and exhilarating. Something must be wrong with us because we can't wait to do it again next year! I'll be posting lots of stories over the next few days but this one sets the stage. Last of all, here's a little you tube clip of our stand during the show that Les took with his phone. You can see Emily machine quilting a charity quilt on the 6 foot Art Quilter frame.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Pumpkin Light

Pumpkins & power tools!

Father and son.

All Hallows Eve!