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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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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

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Quilting With Photos Transferring Images to Fabric

Quilting With Photos is not a difficult process if you know how. Like many things it looks complicated, but if you follow these simple steps, you will have success with printing your own photos for quilting.

First of all you need to understand the basics.
1. Printer
2. Ink
3. Fabric

If you get the combination wrong, then you will have problems.

1. Printer. Look at the printers available and ask the seller if it is the right printer for you. Most people would choose a Canon or Epsom. Things to ask include – does it print on fabric – do I need to do anything special? Will it take fabric on a roll or just sheets? Think about the size – will you be happy printing just A4 or do you need an A3 printer. Ask if you can see print outs.

2. Ink. You need an inkjet printer not a laser printer. There are two types of inkjet – some use pigment based and others use dye based. This is a very confusing area or printing on fabric, especially because most applications are for paper. On paper pigment ink is much preferred because it is fade resist. Dye based are usually brighter colours. The latter cause problems on fabric because the colour washes out or bleeds (runs), which is not what you want on fabric. You cannot switch inks in your printer, if you have bought a dye-based printer, you must use dye-based inks. If using these on fabric, you need to prepare fabric beforehand and after to help the dye fix. If using pigment-based inks, use pre-treated fabric for best results. Either way printing on fabric is more suitable for projects that do not need washing regularly, they will fade. Always use the inks recommended for your printer by the manufacturer and not cheap substitutes.

3. You can cut fabric, attach it to freezer paper and run it through your printer. You can be lucky with this many times, but sooner or later it usually jams your printer and hey ho, you wish you had not. Computer fabric is not excessively expensive and saves you the problem of sorting out a jammed printer and also saves you time. You can buy different fabrics such as cotton, linen and silk.

If you want to know more about what to print on fabric and how to create your own designs, then see our ecourse or why not have a go at designing your own fabric and printing it, here in our ecourse.

In an ideal world, we would use a large-format printer to print out quilting fabric, but these come at a cost and the average person would never get their money back. For the past ten years, bureaus have been springing up offering to print your fabric. You can even order fat quarters from some of them as well as metres. They produce fabric digitally and you can sell your own designs.

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Quilting For Beginners Making A Start

You have by now, if you are following the blog, read the quilting guide, bought your basic tool kit, got a little sewing machine and some fabric and you are ready to start. Yet you keep putting it off.
You are not sure you understand the instructions, have chosen the right fabric or even the right pattern.

Let me help. Last week we looked at simplifying quilting for beginners so that you can complete a quilt. Once you do so, you will gain confidence. I know how difficult it is to start, it took me years of indecision.

1. Find a quiet time to begin.
2. Ensure you will not be disturbed
3. Make sure you have a comfortable chair and that it is the right height.
4. Have everything to hand that you need.
4. Breathe deep and relax.

Try to set a time to quilt each day even if it is only 30 minutes. Anything to get started. Even if you are just sewing one seam, it is a start. Once you start, your confidence will grow.

Only you know your ability. Aim for something simple such as strips, squares or geometric shapes such as squares and oblongs. Leave the triangles for now. English paper piecing if you prefer hand stitching, is also amazingly easy and very accurate.

Start with a small project to gain confidence and you’ll soon be on the road to full-size quilting if that is your aim. Build with each project you make. Practising on small projects means that you will finish them quickly and once you have finished projects your confidence just blooms. When you are confident of one step, move onto the next.

If you need practice with straight stitch and quarter inch seams, then practice. Make strips into small bags or journal covers. What it is best not to do is to start a quilt above your skill level and be unable to finish it. So forget that dream quilt for now, and concentrate on finishing simple projects. Your time will come to make the quilts of your dreams.

Made a mistake – get out your unpicking tool and start again. Or try again the next day if you are out of patience. Practice and finished projects equals progress.

Words and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Pre-cuts Easy Quilting Tips Anyone Can Master

Quilt the Easy Way with my top tips for pre-cuts. Afraid your quilting skills are basic but want to make a quilt that looks good? Follow these tips for simple quilting ideas that anyone can do.

1. Pre-cuts provide ready-cut fabrics that anyone can use. One of the obvious mistakes beginners make is to not cut fabric accurately. In fact some quilters never master cutting fabrics. Sometimes even pre-cuts can vary but they are relatively accurate.

2. Use a good quality wadding. Some wadding can show through when stitching.

3. Use the same type of fabric throughout the quilt.

What can you make with pre-cuts?

Strip quilts are a favourite. They are not just easy but also quick to do. Simply cut your jelly roll (fabric cut into strips) to the required length for your project. Depending on the size of the quilt you are making, measure across, allow for the seam allowances and borders and start joining strips. You can join the strips vertically, horizontally or even diagonally. Just make sure you alternate which end you start joining another strip, otherwise the strips have a tendency to start going out of shape.

You can use strips as they are. You can slice the strips once sown together into smaller pieces. You can also make blocks. They are very versatile. You can also add more fabrics if you think the jelly roll does not have enough contrast.

If you are confident at cutting, you can buy a special strip ruler to cut strips of an equal width. There are many book available for strip or jelly roll quilting.

Strip quilts are great for beginners since they will give you the confidence you need. If you have joined your strips horizontally, try quilting the sandwich diagonally to add variety. Mark your quilt from corner to corner, then quilt at regular intervals. Or go for free-motion quilting if you can. Circles make a good contrast to the lines of the strip quilt.

Once you have mastered a basic strip quilt, try out some of the other ideas for using a strip. I combined strips and applique to make my Four Seasons Wall Hangings. The kits are available in the online shop

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Foolproof Quilting For Beginners

Where do you start with quilting? If it all looks so difficult and you are having difficulty getting started in quilting, there is help at hand. For years I would stare at quilting books and magazines totally bewildered. Quilts can look so complicated. Most of them are not. The trick is to break them down into bite-sized pieces. Even better there are foolproof ways to quilt for beginners.

It is important to recognise your sewing skills and to work on something you can finish. Build your sewing and quilting skills and improve as you learn. Concentrate on your strengths. If you are confident with one aspect of quilting – make that shine. Get one quilt finished and you’ll be hooked.

1. Work with plain fabrics if you find it easier to begin with Kona have a wonderful range of plain fabrics. I know I would love to have a fat quarter or more of every one. There are plenty of outlets in the U.K. for these fabrics and new colours are introduced regularly.
2. Introduce pattern with easy-to-use pre-cuts. You have lots of choice from strips to squares and if you are not so hot on cutting, this is a good way to start that first quilt.
3. Keep the design and colour choice simple at first.
4. Decide whether the design or the quilting is most important. This will depend on your own individual skills. Consider taking the design course.
5. Look for simple ways to cut your fabrics that have a magic complicated effect.
6. Work on small projects that you can finish in a day or a weekend.
7. Try quilt as you go – it’s an easier way to complete a quilt. There is a tutorial coming up soon.
8. Short of time but still want to quilt? Try number 7 or try hand quilting that can be done in short bursts like EPP. See our guide to different types of quilting.
9. Build your skills – once you can piece in straight strips or squares, try dividing the squares and piecing triangles.
10. If piecing is not your thing, try a multi- coloured background and applique.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Exclusive – Beginners’ Quilting 10 Top Tips For Quilt Making

hand dyed quilting fabric

Beginners’ quilting? Where do you start? What basic equipment do you need?Quilting is an ancient craft that can be created by hand or machine. With hand sewing it can be as simple as fabric, needle and thread.

Here is my top ten of what you need:

1. Fabric anything from plain calico cotton to hand dyed fabrics or commercial fabrics. I would choose cotton over polyester or mixes every time, however I do like to experiment with other fabrics. Check out our exclusive hand dyed fabrics

2. Whether hand or machine, choose good sewing needles appropriate to your fabric. Hand quilting needles are tiny and take some getting used to.

3. I would choose cotton thread over polyester in a suitable weight for your project. Opt for hand quilting thread if you are hand quilting. For embellishing your quilt, we have a range of undyed threads in cotton, wool, linen and silk.

4. Wadding – small projects can use felt but it is usual to choose a special batting or wadding. I do like the cotton wadding. There is a wide range of natural and synthetic wadding available. It is mainly a matter of choice. For bed quilts, choose the best you can afford. For wall hangings, many people opt for polyester.

5. Scissors – the best you can afford that are kept ONLY for cutting fabric.

6. Pins – you will most likely need more than one type. Long straight pins are useful for piecing. Curved safety pins are useful for basting the quilt layers.

7. Cutting requires either good scissors, but to be more accurate (and you know that is the byword of all quilting) you will need a rotary cutter. Feeling flush? Invest in an Accuquilt cutter or similar.

8. Cutting also requires rulers. Use a quilt ruler to cut accurately along with a cutting board.

9. Markers – I use a Hera marker.

10. Templates – make your own or buy. Mylar sheets are a good choice.

Check out the guide for types of quilting.

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Exclusive – Quilting Books Worth Buying

Here is a list of quilting books I have found to be really useful, with the reviews I wrote about them if applicable. It is a work in progress, starting with the most recently released books. I will add to the list as new books come out, so keep checking back please.

Quilt Traditions by Devon LaVigne. ISBN 9781617455223. What a wonderful way to learn traditional quilting. 12 great projects and 9 skill-building techniques. Each quilt has a story to tell. Good design is the basis of this interesting book. Perfect your quilting skills with strip piecing, half-square triangles, templates, paper piecing, machine appliqué and sewing set-in seams and curves. You can see how the harmonious colour selections enhance these wonderful quilts. Easy to follow instructions and clear photos and diagrams seem to make the process easier. I really enjoyed this book.

Pioneer Quilts by LL and K Triplett. ISBN 9781617454653. The authors are the proud owners of a large quilt collection from their pioneer grandmother. They are documenting their historic collection for all to see and enjoy. In this book, you will find 30 quilts from the famous Poos collection. These are photographed in detail. 5 projects give instruction for you to make a quilt from an antique design. The book begins with an introduction based on historical research and diaries from the 1800s about life on the Plains and migration west. There are superb reproductions of the quilts, each with a description. The 5 patterns have been re-created for the modern quilter and are suitable for the intermediate skill level. The large Delectable Mountains quilt is c. 1850, Wild Goose Chase from c. 1875, Cake Stand from c.1890, Red and white Nine Patch from c. 1870 and Double Four-Patch Crib Quilt from c. 1880. You’ll find everything you need to know to make these 5 wonderful quilts. They are not my favourites from the book however, but each of these quilts is a piece of history.

Artful Log Cabin Quilts by Katie Pasquini Masopust. ISBN 9781617454509. Katie is one of my favourite quilt authors. She has the most wonderful ideas. If you are thinking traditional log cabin quilts, think again. This book takes you from inspiration to a modern interpretation of log cabin quilts. Make free-form blocks from any image. Contents include history, inspiration, grids, fabrics, cutting, construction, quilting and finishing plus a gallery. There are lots of ideas for composition. The book has easy to follow instructions and is illustrated throughout with fabulous images of work. A simple design idea that works and will transform your quilting. It doesn’t, however make me think of log cabin quilts, but very very artful, yes. Great designs, great use of colour, fabric and stitch.

Modern Triangle Quilts by Rebbecca Bryan. ISBN 9781617453137. 70 pieced triangle blocks make bold, geometric designs to play with in your quilt-making. There are 3 basic triangular shapes used to make blocks. These are used singly or joined to make diamonds or larger triangles. You’ll also find 11 sampler quilts that are simple to piece with no set-in seams. Explore bold, dynamic design, colour, visual texture and balance. Enhance with stitch. I love the Upstart quilt (I would have put this one on the front cover). It is dynamic and a very adaptable design, as shown in Skylines and Facets. At the back of the book are fold-out template patterns. The instructions are clear and I would expect this to be one to be a bestseller.

All Things Quilting with Alex Anderson. ISBN 9781607058564. Don’t know how to quilt? Want to learn but can’t get to classes? Here is a superb book to help you along the journey. Few sit down and create a masterpiece straight away, but this book will certainly iron out a few wrinkles. Learn all about materials, tools and techniques. Found out how to design, draft, cut, piece, applique, construct, quilt and finish. Expand your quilting horizons no matter what your skill level. This is not just about tips and measurements, this book encourages you to play and think before committing. Includes great photography and easy to follow instructions throughout. An absolute classic.

Quilting Is My Therapy by Angela Walters. ISBN 9781217455162. I have admired all Angela Walters’ books but this one has me mesmerized. That gorgeous cover is soft to the touch and I keep stroking it – it is almost like a piece of fabric. This is a collectible book of the stitches and quilts created by this amazing machine quilt artist. See how she chooses free-motion stitches to adorn her quilts. Such a magnificent book with incredible knock-out photography. Includes beginnings, hand to machine quilter, going pro, go big, back to the future, about the author, Special detail has been paid to extra thick paper and a cover with flap and it is simply superb in a word. It’s like stitch combining to accommodate the quilt design and enhance perfectly with stitch. Sharing her fabulous skills for all to see what they too can achieve. This is all about the beauty of quilting, highlighting the stitch. It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it. Angela does it so fine. It is not a step-to-step free-motion instruction manual, but Angela talking about her incredible journey to be one of the best quilters. Highly recommended.

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Exclusive – How To Really Cost a Quilt

Anyone who has studied business should be aware of how to cost a product. However, for some makers that are usually hobbyists or makers for friends or for anyone who is baffled, here is the ultimate low-down on how to cost that quilt.

A few guidelines to start with, which should go without saying but you’d be surprised! Ensure you are actually proficient enough to make a product for sale. Many times I have seen posts on social media saying ‘My friend wants to buy this. How much should I charge?’ Sadly the accompanying photo is one of a crumpled, badly made object.

Be professional. If you are not up to making a quilt at ‘for sale’ standard, then do not accept payment. If you can do it, then charge accordingly. Never think this is pin money or a hobby.

Business Practice
Far too many people think they can sell without telling the tax man. Do not do it. Even if it is for friends and family, you could be in violation of business law. Ask the taxman, they will tell you if you are taxable. Be aware that selling on Etsy, eBay, Facebook and other social sites means you can be found. Be honest.

Accepting A Commission
1. Can you produce exactly what the person is asking for?
2. Who is providing the materials? If it is the purchaser – you need to ensure they are providing you with top quality materials, or you need to exempt yourself from the results of washing etc with regard to different materials that shrink at different rates; thin, worn materials that might fall apart; material that might colour bleed. I much prefer to select materials myself.
3. Delivery – is it a realistic time schedule? Ideally you want to set the delivery date yourself but it must be agreed. If it is imposed upon you and you cannot meet the deadline, you could be in breach of contract.
4. Ensure you know what is being asked of you with regard to size, fabric, binding, and any other requirements.
4. You will need to be specific about cost. There is no reason, if you are producing a professional product that you should not charge accordingly. Quilting is a skill that is often under-rated. Some quilts are quicker to make than others.
5. Get it in writing and produce two copies, one for the buyer to keep and the other for your records. Ensure both copies are signed.

Working Out The Cost
There is much more to costing a quilt than one thinks (especially buyers!), so ensure you factor in everything.
A. Materials – fabric, wadding, quilt label, thread, one sewing needle, rotary cutting blades. Anything used in the quilt, which cannot be used is charged at cost. Some makers might factor in a small profit margin here. You have taken the time to purchase these goods and need to add shipping costs too. Things that are purchased but can be used several times over such as sewing machines and tools are assets and for these you would factor in a percentage of the cost of the tools and machinery you have had to buy to make that quilt – that specialist ruler, the longer machine. My advice is use the best fabrics available and charge accordingly. You are producing a heirloom, something that will last a lifetime and beyond. Include any embellishments such as buttons etc.
B. One day you will have to replace that machine. Factor in a percentage of your running costs, including servicing and repairs. Also factor in a cost for electricity and any other running costs. If you have a website or pay for advertising or exhibitions, then factor a percentage of these in too. It is a matter of working out how many quilts you will sell a year, dividing your running costs by that number and finding out the running costs per quilt.
C. Design cost if applicable including any meetings and delivery time.
D. Time to make the quilt – again be professional, charge the going rate. The minimum you should charge is the minimum hourly rate for your age. You might wish to add more for experience, complexity of design. If you are a slow quilter, you might like to charge the bare minimum. If it takes you 3 hours to do what it takes most people one hour, then one hour would be the charge. What I would not advise anyone to do is just charge 50 pounds or just times the materials by two or whatever nonsense someone has told you. This undermines professionals and demeans quilting as a whole.
E. Are you taxable? Take into account the amount you will have to pay in tax.
F. Do you belong to any quilting associations that you have to pay for? Factor a small percentage in.
G. Add delivery costs if the quilt is not being collected in person.
H. Profit margin? That’s your time spent quilting at the hourly rate you have set. If you are embarrassed about your hourly rate when questioned, then just give the price for the quilt as a whole. You might want to factor in a small percentage for extras.
I. What if things go wrong? So you thought that quilt would take 20 hours and the machine was not working right and you had to unpick. The truth is that it is hard to cost this in – your buyer is not to blame. It is however wise to factor in a couple of hours extra on every quilt so that over time, if things do go wrong or simply take longer than you thought, you are covered.
J. You cannot price-match major retailers and mass-produced quilts, so just concentrate on providing a unique quilt with a personal service, made with love. At the end of the day there is a limit to what the market will pay, but this may be much higher than you think if you have identified your market correctly.

Be aware of what is tax deductible when you declare your income:
If you are using part of your home to make a living, you can claim a percentage of heat/light/telephone etc. Know that if you use part of your home exclusively for business, such as a home studio that has no other purpose, that you can be liable for Capital Gains tax when you sell your home. So sometimes it is better to use the kitchen or spare bedroom. The products you buy to make the quilt are tax deductible as allowable expenses. The assets, you are allowed to take a percentage until such time that they are defunct, sold or replaced.

Copyright Karen Platt 2018

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Karen Platt Textile Blog

Welcome. This is the new blog where I shall be showing and discussing my textile work. My stitch and embroidery as opposed to quilting, which is in separate blog posts.

My stitch life began many years ago and is something I just have to do. It is a part of me. I cannot just sit, I have to stitch or knit.

The two pieces shown here began life as pieces based on ancient art. The essential ingredient is circles made by ancient man. However, I was not satisfied with either piece, and certainly the one on scrim was almost consigned to the bin on several occasions. Yet, I am not one to throw work away. Everything has a purpose, it is just that the purpose does not always reveal itself straight away. So both pieces sat in the drawer awaiting for the finishing of a book.

Then I started another book on lichen – containing mainly images for inspiration for textile artists. I began creating some work depicting lichen. Yesterday I was just about to start a piece on the embellishing machine with pre-felt and merino tops. Suddenly I had a feeling of deja vu. I went through that drawer and selected not only these two pieces shown here, but several others I could work up into something better than they are at present.

The first is worked on cotton scrim I lightly attached merino wool in several colours using an embellishing machine (you could use dry felting needles). I then stitched circles that almost disappeared into the merino wool. I was never happy with this piece. Yesterday I started enhancing the piece with more stitch and additions. It is looking better and I shall work on it today, then it will go under the embellishing machine once more.

The second piece is worked on hessian in the same way and this needs relatively little more to make it a finished piece.

My textile work for sale is online here

and my textile ebooks can be viewed online here

I shall shortly be adding a stitch and textile ecourse, current ecourses can be seen online here

All work is copyright Karen Platt 2018