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Diary of the Month – June 2015


I promised you I’d be back, so here I am. Mid month, mid week – at time of writing anyway – and as busy as ever.  What planet was I on when I imagined lots and lots of extra free time?How and so ever, I have been putting said time to good use, now it is time to report back to you all. Here in Donegal it has been a bit of a damp squib of a summer so far, and the only alternative is to sew. I have spent a large part of the last few weeks piecing together a very large quilt indeed. I have been enjoying it immensely, as there is nothing difficult in the blocks, and the materials (Union Blues by Moda), are a joy to handle and stitch. All good so far. I put the whole design on point – lovely, then had to work out where the “edge” of my design would be. This involved inventing and making an extra half-block for all the sides. The corners then needed to be treated differently too. 

I started from one corner, and worked into the middle. (Typed Muddle there by mistake – very freudian and apt slip!)  As one diagonal row across the quilt centre was now much longer than my 96-inch work table could accommodate, I had to lay the whole thing out in the back yard just to get a visual handle on it all. So next I worked from the opposite corner in. On paper it looked like a very good plan indeed. Somewhere along the way I added sashes onto both sides where they were to meet – a double row of sashes was NOT required. HORRORS, I had to submit myself to that occupation that we all dread – unpicking!!!  And not just one long straight row, as all kinds of junctions and sub-seams met up along the way. A lot of patience and perseverance later, and the job was done. Now I am ready to add an inner border, a piano key border and and a final outer border, before handing it all over to Nicola. Yippee.


So what else have I been up to? I made a couple of cushions to complete a set as a wedding gift, I have designed a whole series of House & Home blocks, and put together most of the first one. I am loving this work, combining simple patchwork with appliqué and free-hand embroidery. Just so relaxing. Heartily recommend it, especially as you can take it with you anywhere and work away, any time any place. It is up there now with embroidered labels for quilts and the old reliable hand-sewing of bindings as one of my most relaxing things to do. Yet any of these activities would drive Nicola nuts…one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.

On another day I cut out a whole 40-block Log Cabin Quilt for a stitcher too anxious to cut into her good cloth, intended as a wedding present for a friend. The stack you see here contains all the pieces for forty blocks, (in slices where each slice has the sections, in order, all pre-cut and ready to go), plus the border and binding. That is essentially what my “Log Cabin Lasagne” is about – you can find it on the Summer class list if you want to learn how it is done.




Even though I try to be disciplined, new stuff just keeps on arriving. Someone must have ordered it? Could that someone possibly have been me? Latest delivery is a group from our old favourites Kansas Troubles. Warmest Autumn shades, welcome even on grey days of Summer. These are rapidly being converted into Square-Play packs and PoPs too, all the better for sewing with. Those of you in our PoP programme will see them arrive in your door during the second half of next week all being well. Keep in mind that the lovely Creina is off on holiday, so Toots here is Tout Seul for now, but we are on schedule – for now.




I also sat myself down to write up our new class timetable for the summer months. Right now I am deep into the process of preparing for the very first class – our old favourite and much loved “Random Harvest”. I know to look at it seems like just squares of fabric thrown together any old way, but the method involves so much more. The whole point is that the class will teach participants how to achieve this apparent simplicity, but well. We start with colour and fabric selection – you can use almost anything in this one. Then we take fabric preparation and cutting. If the cutting is done well, making this quilt is a doddle. Next we do chain piecing, and how the blocks are pressed to create a smooth even finish. Once some blocks have been made, we will finish the day with considering all kinds of options on how to build quilts of any size, and quilting and finishing options. There are only five places on any of our Summer workshops, so get in early if you wish to book.


And Finally


While it is all fresh in my mind, all the time that I have been working on this big quilt, I have been mulling over my essential list of Do’s and Don’t’s of making a quilt top. Here are just some;

  1. Have all your fabrics collected before you begin.  Allow extra of any essential fabrics, your pattern may evolve as you go along, or you could have a disaster somewhere along the way and need to replace a few chunks.
  2. If your border is important, and it usually is, choose and set your border Fabric aside at the start of the process. Do NOT kick the tin saying “I will choose the border when I need to”. That is like choosing furniture, curtains and wallpaper, spending a fortune getting them all in place, then trying to find the right carpet to pull the whole motley crew together. Not a good idea.
  3. Read your pattern through to the end, at least once. Make sure you understand every part of the process.
  4. If there are tricky bits, or techniques you haven’t tackled before, try these out on practise fabric first.
  5. If help is available, take it. Sew with a friend any time you can.
  6. On the other hand, cut alone. If you can manage it, do all the cutting for your project in advance. If you are short of a fabric you will know about it before you start to sew. Cut with a good blade on a clean board. Make sure you have good light, that your cutting surface is at the right height for you. Don’t cut under pressure, or when tired, distracted or worried. Cutting is often the most pressurised element of preparation – choose your cutting time well.
  7. Ironing – you can never iron too frequently. Better to sew a little, then iron, sew another little and iron again etc as you go along, than to try to complete blocks and iron at the end – not good. I like to use a good steam iron when preparing my cloth for cutting in order to remove creases, but after that to use steam very sparingly indeed. Too much steam can be hazardous. Cloth can get soggy and distorted. Fingers can get burned. Ironing surfaces can get water-logged and messy. Use steam responsibly.
  8. If you have to use a lot of steam to remove creases before cutting, be sure to give your fabric time to “air” again before cutting. If you cut and store damp fabrics they come out musty, or worse again mouldy!
  9. Yuch. When you unpick, do it with care. Press all unpicked seams and remove all the pesky little bits of thread – properly. They stick around like nobody’s business, look awful on a finished quilt. Repair adjoining seams – NOW – where needed ,  don’t promise to come back to them, you won’t be able to find them until the quilt is finished and it is too late. Just like cooking, clean up as you go.
  10. If you do make a major mistake, stop. Take time to think it through. Look at all your options, but don’t try to resolve a major problem in a hurry when you are stressed. There is often a better, easier solution if you give yourself some time.

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