Friday, 30 March 2012

Quilter's Easter Basket

A Superior Threads order came in this week. Lots of ladies have been taking advantage of our Bulk Buy discount - so this week's order was a big one. The threads were so gorgeous sparkling in the sunshine that I just had to take some photos before I posted them off. Wouldn't you just love to get an Easter Basket like this!

The colours look good enough to eat! With no calories it's better than chocolate.

These large cones have enough thread to quilt several projects. When all the chocolate eggs are eaten up you'll still have yards and yards of gorgeous threads to stitch away with. To order in bulk use the Superior Threads website as a shop window and ring or email me with your list.
or ring Martha on 01526 378057

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Kathy's Patch

Look what opened this month in Folkstone, Kent ... a  new Patchwork and Quilting shop called Kathy's Patch. I met Kathy when she was heading home after the Harrogate show last autumn. Kathy was looking for a machine quilting frame to use in her new shop. She stopped by to try our New English Quilter frame. She loved it! She loved the JUKI TL98-P too. They were just what she was looking for. Kathy and her friend Jo wanted to be able to offer customers the chance to machine quilt their own projects right in the shop. Kathy's Patch is so spacious there's plenty of room for the 6 foot Art Quilter frame.

Kathy came back in January to catch our Machine Quilting Retreat at the Petwood Hotel. She wanted some help to get up and running with her new Art Quilter frame and JUKI TL-98 P sewing machine.  Here's a photo of Kathy and Trudi. I think that they dressed to match Trudi's beautiful quilt. 

After months of preparation, Kathy's Patch opened it doors at the beginning of March. I think that having the shop in an industrial unit was a stroke of genius. There is plenty of parking. There is also plenty of room to browse and put various fabrics together as you plan your projects. I just love the quilts hanging from the rafters! Definitely inspiring.

Kathy's Patch has a great selection of Superior Threads. They provide the opportunity to audition the threads while you choose the fabrics.  Visit Kathy's Patch and find a warm welcome because the owners arejust as passionate about patchwork and quilting as you are. And please tell Kathy and Jo that Martha says "Hi!". You can click on the links in the post to find out more about Kathy's Patch. 

Friday, 23 March 2012

Lines of Colour

When I first saw this image on pinterest, I thought that it was a photo of my IKEA rug. Comparing the two photos, you can see why!

The first photo is actually tulip fields in Holland and I'm guessing that they look like this right about now. My kids think that IKEA must have copied the photo to design the rug. However it happened it is an example of Art inspired by Nature.

Source: via Martha on Pinterest

In machine quilting we
take the line and bend it.

...sometimes in flowing curves like the wire chairs above and
sometimes in angles and points. Melody Johnson
uses both in this detail of her quilt Radiant Orb.

Source: via Martha on Pinterest

I can't resit showing one more of Melody's amazing quilts.
This one is called The Triumph of the Tulips.

Such glorious colours! I am going to give nature the last word with this final image. I'm getting inspired for some machine quilted feathering with variegated thread!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


It's been a very pinteresting day! Before this morning I had no idea what it was. But today I stumbled upon pinterest and decided to find our a bit more. Now I'm hooked!

Pinterest is a virtual 'pinboard'. It's an easy way to organize and share cool things that you find on the web. And then you can see what other people are finding and how they like to arrange the images. I've only just got my toes wet today, so to speak, but I decided to post about it anyway, just to show how easy it is to get going. You'll be able to watch my progress as I begin to get a better idea of how it works.

I love how the pages from this 'book mobile' look like quilted feathers. Here one image perfectly combines two of the great loves of my life; reading and quilting.The pages create such gorgeous feather shapes. It makes me want to re-create the pattern doodled on paper and quilted on my machine quilting frame. I am inspired!

Here's another neat image. What a brilliant thing to do with my button collection! I am definitely going to make this!

One last image. I have to include it because it is iconic. It would be difficult to find a more pinteresting mascot!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


March is always a bit of a mad month for us. For starters, 4 of our 6 children have birthdays between the last days of February and the first two weeks of March. My husband Stephen and I celebrate our 23rd Wedding Anniversary on March 17th followed by English Mother's Day. This year we managed to fit a trip to Russia and a Machine Quilting Retreat weekend.  What a month!

Birthday and Anniversary cards on our dresser
This post is about a gift from Marina Mamonova, who we met in Moscow for the Handicraft Show. Marina and I were working together on a Seminar sponsored by the JUKI sewing machine company. I gave a lecture/demonstration of how we use the JUKI TL98-P and Exceed 600 sewing machines for free-motion machine-quilting on our 4 and 6 foot Art Quilter frames.  Marina gave a free-motion machine quilting workshop using the JUKI Exceed 600 sewing machines. It was such a pleasure to meet and work together. I was especially thrilled to get a close up view of a couple of Marina's quilts. When we said our goodbyes at the end of the Show, Marina gave me this amazing present.

 These Russian fabric dolls symbolize harmony in the home. Marina explained that they are made from antique Russian fabric that is no longer manufactured. So these fabrics are now very rare, much sought after and treasured. Such a precious gift! Marina said not to tuck it away safely in a drawer because it was customary for the dolls to be kept out in the open as a celebration of the harmony between husband and wife.

I love this present! The faceless dolls remind me of their Amish counterparts. I love it that the fabric is priceless vintage. And how the dolls seem to almost lean toward each other - it is amazing that dolls without faces can communicate so much expression. This is a gift that I will cherish!

 Besides being our Anniversary and St. Patrick's Day, the 17th of March is International Quilt Day. This gift  fits perfectly with 2 of the three. I reminds me how happy I am to be married to my husband.  And it reminds me of the ties we have with other quilters all over the world. Now it stands on my dresser, and whenever I see it will evoke a special love for Russian and her quilters! 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Feathers to Foliage

It was meant to be all about feathers
but our direction took a rather fruitful detour from feathers to foliage. Everybody in quilting loves feathers! We love the way the light bounces off the tear-drop shapes. So feathering is guaranteed to have a popular following. There is a certain progression that helps even the newest machine quilter gain confidence in creating the much loved feather shape. We begin with a simple pattern of hearts and loops. The loops help us to manoeuvre every-which-way around our quilt top. The hearts teach us to create the all important tear-drop shape. Put them together and you've got a simple line design that is going places. And it did go places, just not quite where we expected. 

We had the good fortune to have Lalla Ward as our 'resident Art Quilter' for this Retreat. And Lalla brought her sketchbooks and a lovely leaf book. When Lalla made the little leap from hearts to leaves we all wanted to have a try.. 

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of leaf shapes all begging to be combined in all sorts of lovely arrangements. So we spent some time going from drawing on paper to drawing on fabric. Then we experimented with what the leaves would look like in different sorts of thread. 

These photos capture a marvellous few minutes where everyone was happily drawing all sorts of leaves...


...moving the pens in the very same way that soon they would be guiding the sewing machine. 

In the end it doesn't matter what we draw. What matters is that we do draw all the time and in all sorts of places; envelopes, spare bits of paper, sketchbooks, rolls of paper from Early Learning Centre. Once we're confident on paper we can do it on quilt tops. Our Art Quilter frame transforms the sewing machine needle into a pencil. That means whatever we can draw we can quilt. Simple leaf shapes can be connected by loops and aimed in all sorts of directions to create an infinite variety of gorgeous quilted shapes. The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Retreat Reflections

 "This was the best retreat ever!" That's what Trudi and I said at the end of this Retreat. And then we chuckled because that's what we say every time.

We have similar goals for each Retreat. We want our participants to:
  1. become sewing machine savvy
  2. become fluent at doodling all sorts of line designs
  3. be able to transfer the doodled designs to no-mark-hand-guided-free-motion-machine-quilting on the frame
  4. and have the opportunity to audition lots of different threads

What really makes our retreats so fantastic is our participants. Although our goals for each retreat are similar the people change. Our retreats are very much centred on the goals, skills and talents of the people attending. Our retreats are small enough to be personal and to adapt and adjust the larger goals to individual needs and expertise. Everybody brings something to the table. Our retreats create an opportunity for all of us to bounce ideas and challenges off each other. This is what makes the experience so rewarding. 

The people who attend are a diverse group. One girl was collecting her frame and needed just enough information to get off to a good start. Others wanted some inspiration to get quilting again after a dry spell. Several girls were struggling with their sewing machines and needed help sorting tension and threading issues so they brought their machines along and we managed to get them running smoothly between us. Everyone was keen to see the difference that the right needles and threads made to the machine quilting process.We had traditional quilters and an art quilter. Some spent the entire weekend and some just came for the day but everyone worked together to solve the challenges and explore the possibilities of the tools we use for machine quilting.

So although we go into our retreats with similar goals, we come out of each retreat with the confidence that comes with a higher level of manual competence as well as new friends, fresh insights and wider horizons.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Marina Mamonova

Meeting Marina Mamonova was one of the best things about our Russian trip. Marina is a very famous Russian quilter. Before going to Russia I googled Marina and discovered that she had been to Birmingham for the Festival of Quilts just last August. Marina had her own gallery of quilts and she made such an impression that people are still talking about her work!

In the photo above, we are holding up one of Marina's amazing quilts. This quilt has a postcard theme. Actually the postcard was a theme that ran throughout the event. This particular quilt is like a postcard laying on a lace tablecloth. The intricate detail of the postcard is held together by a fine netting. 

I've posted some images here so you can see the exquisite detail.

Below is a detail of the raw edge appliqué that Marina used to create the lace around the 'post card'. Some things are so beautiful that they break your heart. This quilt is one of them!

Here, Marina is showing us another of her quilts. This quilt has a more abstract theme.

I hope my Russian friends will correct me if I am wrong, 
but I think that the name of this quilt translates as  
 'The Birth of the Blues'

This quilt incorporates such a vibrant use of colour and movement. Marina again is using a similar technique as a fine netting is holding all the very small pieces of fabric in place. You can see this in the detail of the quilt below. 

Marina is truly an amazing artist. It was an honour to meet her in Moscow and get a close up view of two of her quilts. I have a wonderful story about a quilt that Marina brought to our Birmingham show that I'll be telling in a future post. 

A final note about the postcard theme. Marina was invited to the JUKI sponsored seminar to give a master-class about using the JUKI Exceed sewing machines for free-motion machine quilting. And the project was, you guessed it,  POSTCARDS! This made me smile because Emily and I had brought a stack of our heart postcards. Our post cards used a very very simple version of the raw edged appliqué technique which also uses netting. Marina has shown us what this appliqué technique looks like in the hands of a true master!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Back from Moscow

 Emily and I returned back from Moscow last night. The trip was just brilliant!! Here we are in Red Square  with St Basil's Cathedral behind us. It was very cold but we were so glad to be there that we didn't mind!

We were invited by the Moscow division of the JUKI sewing machine company to give a seminar on machine quilting at a Handicraft Fair in Moscow. Mr Kadiev, the general manager of JUKI in Moscow made the arrangements for the Seminar. He was a wonderful host showing us the sights and taking us to dine in traditional Russian restaurants.

Fluent in several languages, Mr Kadiev was a gracious and informative guide sharing insight into Russian history, language and culture. We learned to much and had such a wonderful time! 

 There is too much to capture in one post so tonight I'll just mention a bit about the Handicraft Show.

As soon as we walked into the exhibition hall we felt at home. The venues change but quilting is the same the world over! As ever there were many bright and colourful stands featuring crafts that ranged from cake decorating ...

 to familiar fabric...

 to weaving on a hand loom...

 and all manner of needlework.

Many stands sold needlework versions of  beautiful Russian icons.

 There was a fashion show and an exhibition of quilts. These two quilts were unusual in that they used authentic period costumes and real bags and rings and belts! More tomorrow...I need to go to bed, I think I'm still on Russian time!