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Book Review – Modern Plus Sign Quilts by C. Brickey and P. Alexander

Modern Plus Sign Quilts by Cheryl Brickey and Paige Alexander, softback published by Stash Books. ISBN 9781617455698, price 21.99 in the U.K. available from www.searchpress.com

Modern take on a classic favourite with 16 interesting projects using a variety of quilting techniques. These girls found the plus in plus providing a range of quilts from easy to challenging. Instructions are included for foundation paper piecing and fusible applique. Patterns range from table runner to bed quilt. You will find general instructions at the front and finishing at the back. Each pattern gives materials needed, finished block measurement, finished quilt, cutting, assembly instructions and finishing. Each one is accompanied by excellent photos. The skill level is shown with plus signs. A clever take on geometrics. The faceted rings quilt is my favourite shown top of the front cover.

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Festival of Quilts 2018

quilting design Festival of Quilts

The Festival of Quilts 2018 is fast approaching. It’s all systems go here as I prepare for my stand C5. I am finding it very exciting but nerve-wracking.

From one aspect, I am totally prepared – I will finish at least three quilts. From another aspect, these are totally not what I thought I would be doing. They are all OBW quilts. This has actually been a huge learning curve. I got waylaid by OBW, which at one point I termed One Block Nightmare. I have mastered it now, enough to write my own take on it. Maybe one day I will do another, but not now.

I am hoping to have time to inject ‘something of me’ into the work on the stand. I am essentially a designer. I make to try things out I am far more interested in the design than the quilt – colour, form, texture than producing a finished product. I originally designed 6 new quilts for the show – none of which are made yet.

Design spills over in my desire to create fabulous fabrics too. This is the week to get my paints out and create some unique fabrics for the show. I am so looking forward to this.

The other aspect of my work is to bring modern design into hand stitched quilts – this is a long process as I am doing all the hand stitching. I manage about two hours a day. Yes, I have sore fingers!

Finally, my output is to teach you what I know. I do that in my online freebies, through this blog, tutorials and my ecourses. Nothing gives me more pleasure than passing my knowledge on to people who want to learn. Come and meet me at the Festival of Quilts 2018, on Stand C5 and sign up for an ecourse or buy some fabulous unique fabrics, a kit or finished product.

The brand new quilting and patchwork ecourse for beginners is just been launched today at the special introductory and FOQ show price.

words and images copyright Karen Platt 2018
quilting design Festival of Quilts

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Looking After Your Sewing Machine

Looking after your sewing machine is the one things us quilters are apt to forget. We want to sit and stitch, but to do so effectively, your machine needs a little love. That means cleaning regularly.

How often is that? Recommendations vary from after finishing sewing for the day, to after you complete a project, to once a month and so on. It all depends on how often you use your machine and how long for each time you do use it.

Tip:
Sewing machines work better if they are used almost every day.

Modern sewing machines
A modern machine often has the advantage of you not having to oil it. It will have been oiled at the factory with sufficient lubricant. If you have an older machine, refer to your manual for how and when to oil. For most of us, that is the oiling taken care of.

However, every sewing machine needs cleaning. The exterior is easy to keep clean. Just wipe with a damp cloth. It is also advisable to keep your machine covered, out of direct sunlight and not in extremes of temperature.

Even the best sewing cotton thread makes tiny particles of ‘dust’ called lint. Lint gathers in and around the bobbin case out of sight. Again refer to your manual for cleaning. Basically you will be removing the plate (keep the screws safe) and usually the bobbin casing. Use the small brush that came with your machine to clean any lint. Never blow the lint, this will disperse it and it may go into the machine, where it should not be. Also clean the back of the sewing needle and where the spool of cotton sits.

N.B. If you are using fleece it will cause more lint that quilting cottons.

This will enable your machine to run smoothly and there should be no problems at your yearly service.

Sometimes your machine will become noisy or may even skip stitches. If you have not cleaned it for a long time, check to see if a good clean makes a difference before ringing a service engineer.

Copyright Karen Platt 2018

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New Products Six Month Retrospective of Art, Craft and Textiles

New products – a look back at the last six months. I have worked so hard on my core skills of writing, teaching and publishing. Here are the new products:

The last six months have seen me create a brand new website of new products

In the last six months, I have launched six new ebooks providing inspiration for artists in every field. These include numerous photos you can use to create your own work, no matter what kind of artist you are. The ebooks also include examples of my work (these cannot be used but can inspire). The six titles are
1. Skies
2. Rust
3. Bark
4. Lichen
5. Coast
6. Stone and Strata
They can all be viewed here
The next title in preparation is Desert.

My digital work receives a lot of interest. The question I am most asked is ‘How did you do that?’. To answer that I created an Advanced Photoshop ecourse. It is Advanced in that it takes a few processes but is still simple to use and produce the effects I do. You can purchase it here.

As my main focus is now quilting, there are many ecourses and tutorials I have created for quilters. I am still finishing the writing of two ecourses for hand quilting, which will be launched shortly together with a beginner’s quilting course. I have been busy hand dyeing and rust dyeing fabric too. I intend to expand the range further. These are found under the supplies section of the website.
A future focus will be an ecourse in colour and themed work.

My main focus for the next two months is getting ready to take part in the Festival of Quilts for the first time and to showcase my ecourses and quilt kits. You will find me on Stand C5, come and say hello.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Quilting Is Fun And Enjoyable For All

Why is quilting fun? Two weeks have gone by without a blog post. I apologise – the first week was missed because I was in fabulous Newcastle, discovering Hadrian’s Wall. I thought I had wifi, but it was iffy in the hotel, so that plan fell apart. Then I simply forgot the second week! It’s been hell on wheels here. So normal service is resuming today.

I have been stitching I promise. So this week’s post is all about how much fun it is to quilt. I do so love quilting on so many levels. Sometimes we look at incredible quilts and doubt our own ability – just keep going, you will learn with every quilt you make.

1. Choosing fabrics is part of the fun. Try to keep it within what you would use in a lifetime.
2. You really can indulge your love of colour.
3. Quilting is for all – no matter what your experience, you can achieve finished products on one level or another.
4. You can play with design – each quilt can be totally different from the last. So the enjoyment is endless.
5. You can sit at the machine for a few minutes and achieve something.
6. Hand quilting is totally portable.
7. Everyone has a favourite bit – whether it is designing (that’s me), piecing or actual quilting, binding etc. Just enjoy the process. Start small.
8. You want to go wonky – yeah, you can be wonky. Wonky log cabins, wonky houses. Wonky can rule.
9. Every day can be a quilting day.
10. There is always something to keep your interest – new techniques, new fabrics, something you have not tried yet.

What is your favourite bit of this exciting craft?

On my travels I spotted these quilts at Beverley Minster.

Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Crewel Creatures by Hazel Blomkamp

Crewel Creatures by Hazel Blomkamp, softback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782215257, price 15.99 available from www.searchpress.com

Always a delight to see Hazel’s work and the new slant on crewel embroidery in this book Hazel has transformed 6 animals into crewel creations. The book offers sound advice on embroidery basics including a stitch dictionary, needle stitching and needle weaving and beading techniques, illustrated with line drawings. For each project, you see an image of the design plus close-ups, the dimensions, description, materials needed, general and stitching instructions. These instructions are very detailed step-by-step; for example, Norman the Tortoise has 11 pages of instructions. The other projects are ostrich, owl, snake, elephant and finally my favourite project, shown on the front cover, the rhino. There are templates, but they are not given actual size. Surprisingly the book has no index, although it is fairly straightforward, an index would have been useful to locate stitches and techniques in the book. This book was previously published in South Africa and is the third in a series. Hazel’s work is aimed at experienced embroiderers, who are also interested in beading.

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Sew Cute Creatures by Mariska Vos-Bolman

Sew Cute Creatures by Mariska Vos-Bolman, softback published by Search Press. ISBN 9781782215790, price 10.99 available from www.searchpress.com

A fun, cute creatures to sew book. The style reminds me of the style of a fabulous Japanese book I used to have 40 years ago. Slightly large heads and smaller bodies. Just 12 patterns to choose from but they do come with full-sized pattern pieces that you need to trace off. Sew by hand or machine. What you get – clear large photos, clear diagrams and written instructions for assembly. An appealing selection of toys that are easy to make. This book was originally published in Dutch in 2016. The author also had a similar book published in 2014 by a different publisher.

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Quilting Sewing Machines Buy The Best You Can Afford

Quilting sewing machines is all about using the best tools to help you on your way. I am often struck by just how expensive quilting can be. Buying sewing machines is the biggest single expense. You might be tempted to cut corners with your budget as well as snipping off those corners to turn a piece! Let me persuade you that this is not a good idea.

Sewing Machines
Yes, any sewing machine can do straight stitch. Technically that is all you need for quilting, so why not buy the cheapest machine you can afford? Cheaper machines tend to not be able to cope with the demands of quilting. I had a Singer Confidence when I started and because I sewed infrequently, it lasted 7 years. When I started stitching more, it had problems. It did give me the confidence to sew. Sadly Singer machines are not what they used to be. I will never buy another. I upgraded to a Brother and the difference is amazing. Sadly we cannot all afford a Bernina.

Let’s look at a few problems with cheaper sewing machines:
1. Tension – getting your tension right can present a problem
2. Throat space – this was the reason I upgraded – fitting that full-size quilt into the throat space of a cheap end machine is going to cause problems – we will look more at this next week.
3. Durability – a cheap machine is just not designed to take the tear and wear of daily quilting.

Price is the main factor for many of us when choosing sewing machines. It is the reason why I chose the Singer Confidence. The 7470 at around 300 gbp seemed enough to pay to learn the basics of quilting and do my dressmaking. If it had not had technical problems with the computer side of things, I might still be using it. However, putting my first full size quilt through it was a nightmare. So I was almost relieved when it broke down.

What to buy? My, those sewing machines are expensive! It is not uncommon to pay more than 2,000 gbp for a sewing machine. Obviously, most of us are restricted by budget and my budget was much lower than that. I have to admit that I went to twice my budget for a dedicated quilting machine with that extra throat space. I do not regret it. What does annoy me is that with many of those machines, we are paying for fancy stitches we will never use. I did not get the machine of my dreams, but I do have a far superior machine to the one I had. Choose a sewing machine that’s right for you. Here are some tips to help you:

A. Test drive it. Buy from a reputable sewing machine specialist – speak to them, get a demonstration and try out the machine. Take a quilting sandwich and see how the machine handles the layers, not a single fabric.
B. Most manufacturers run offers from time to time, especially when a new model is coming out – you might get a bargain price on the older model. I saved 300 pounds and got a bundle of accessories as well as an extra accessory and the store had a bonus offer too, worth a total of over 120 pounds.
C. I would avoid online retailers for the most part. My machine was under guarantee, but the online retailer would not honour it.
D. If you do not have a sewing machine specialist retailer near you, many manufacturers have machines at exhibitions for you to see and try.
E. Talk to friends – what do they use? What do they really think about their machine?
F. Decide how often you sew, if you also want to embroider and choose a suitable machine.
G. Look for bargains on gumtree/ebay – people who have bought an expensive machine and decided it is not for them.

What is a quilting machine?
In general a quilting machine has a wider throat space, comes with feet that a dressmaking machine does not and has features that the latter does not. Usually it will have a better auto feed system. Quilting machines tend to be more expensive but the features are worthwhile.

Domestic v industrial
All domestic machines are intended for occasional use. None are guaranteed for use by a business. Consider an industrial machine – they are intended for daily use. Unfortunately, you’ll see the words ‘heavy duty’ on cheap machines. Juki are reliable and sturdy but tend to be straight stitch machines only.

Longarm
A longarm is probably most quilter’s dream machine for quilting full-size quilts. They take a lot of space and start at around 6,000 gbp.

Many reputable sewing machine retailers can offer finance, spreading the cost of buying your machine. Always check the small print.

Words copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Tutorial Cut Your Own Diamond Templates For Quilting

In this tutorial, I will teach you how to cut your own diamond templates for quilting. Many templates are too difficult to make yourself, but diamonds are a breeze. This is an easy free tutorial to enable you to make templates quickly and without too much expense.

For this tutorial you will need
1. Paper, card or mylar (these are in order of how long they last. If you want throw away templates, you can use paper, thin card can be used several times, mylar is long-lasting
2. Either a quilting ruler that has a 60° angle or a cutting mat that has a 60° angle
3. A rotary cutter or failing that scissors

For accuracy I use a cutting mat and a rotary cutter, with a solid steel ruler. My ruler is non-slip and perfect for the job. I usually use thin card.

Tutorial instructions:
1. Place your card on the cutting mat, lining it up so that it is straight.
2. Place your ruler along the 60° angle line.
3. Cut the width of the ruler. This ruler is 5cm (2″) wide. It produces a 9-patch diamond that is 15cm (6″) across when stitched together with the quarter inch seams added. You can use a narrower ruler for a smaller diamond.
4. Take your card strip and place the ruler aligned with the straight edge. Cut the width of your ruler. You have one diamond. Repeat to make more, using as much of the card as you can.
5. Place the card face down on the reverse of the fabric.
6. Allowing a quarter inch seam, cut around the card.
7. Although your card template needs to be accurate, when cutting fabric, you can cheat a little, as long as there is enough fabric to fold over and you can secure your seam.
8. Whip stitch diamonds together with right sides facing.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt. This tutorial is for your own personal use ONLY and is not to be copied nor distributed by any means without written permission from the author.

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Textiles Update Hand Knitting and Quilting

My current textiles work in progress and finished work. Just a quick pictorial update on what I have been making so far this month. I have knitted the back and half a sleeve of a wool sweater I have designed. It is my signature textured style. I am undoubtedly in love with cables. The knitting pattern will be available shortly.

The rest of my textiles work was all quilting. I made a crazy quilted picture. I have decided I like it the other way round, but it was designed this way to fit a frame, so this way it will stay! I added embellishments and it will have a narrow ribbon border so that it fits the mount. Easy enough to do – draw the mount size on paper or fusible wadding/interfacing/web and add half inch all round. This is your design space. Add fabrics as desired and stitch in place.For this piece I worked without any kind of interfacing and added fabrics one by one.

I am also working on a new oranges and lemons quilt, but have not photographed yet. Just finished the cutting stage. Today I started making fabric decisions for a new quilt to be mounted onto a canvas box frame. I was going for blue but changed my mind and I know just what fabric is missing now. Thank heavens for stash.

In the evenings, I continue to work on my hand stitched calico quilt. One border is finished and the quilt is now sashed. Plenty of sore fingers there.

These finished textiles quilt designs and more will be on my Festival of Quilts Stand C5 8-12 August 2018. See you there.

Yes, textiles design often looks as messy as that pile of fabric 🙂 I do stash neatly, honest!

Happy making.

Designs, photos and words copyright Karen Platt 2018