Free Motion Quilting Course

We are pleased to announce that we will be running the popular three day, Free Motion Quilting course with guest tutor Cecilia Slinn again in the New Year.

Throughout the course Cecilia will take us through the machine set up, talk about designs and different ideas with the group, with lots of time for guided practice.  Different design ideas are covered throughout the course including working with grid patterns, all over larger designs and, my favourite, feathers in various guises. The three days are spread across three months to allow time for practice and a little homework between each.

You can see some examples of Cecilia’s work on her website here. Her work was recently on display across the country at the Grosvenor Quilt Shows as one of the guest exhibitions.

The workshops will run on Sundays on 5th February, 5th March and the 2nd April at Mitchel Troy Village Hall from 10am to 4pm. A buffet lunch and refreshments are included in the price which is £180 for all three days.

To book email Helen@strictlyquilting.com.

Lazy Log Cabin with Chic Escape

This range has to be one of my favourite in recent months. Brought to us from Tilda it pairs classical flowers with peacocks with a beautiful palette of rich colours. Pinks, mustards, greens and blues.  When I was sent a strip roll of this gorgeousness I knew that I wanted a quick lap quilt to snuggle up with through the Autumn.

Lazy Log Cabins are a great way to use a strip roll for a quick quilt and if you don’t have a strip roll you can cut fabrics into 2 1/2” strips. I used some of the coordinating plain in lilac for the centre of the blocks and as the cornerstones of the sashing. Lazy Logs is a technique which falls into the area of improv – no measuring, just sew and trim. I did plan a little – dividing the fabrics into colours, putting all the pinks, greens, blues, yellows and greys together. I then ensured that each side of the blocks were worked from the same colour group. 

The roll gives enough for ten 14 1/2” blocks, nine were used for the front and I used the last one on the back, along with the leftover scraps to bulk out the back as I didn’t have quite enough of the lilac. This does add interest to a plain backing and ensures there was no waste at all as every piece was used. The roll also gave enough for the binding which I pieced from the left over pieces that were longer.  

Lazy Log Cabin Quilt. 51″ Square – An ideal lap quilt size.

Now here is where I confess I haven’t finished it yet as I am waiting for delivery of my new long arm but I have it ready to practice on as soon as it arrives.

Here’s how to make your own. 

You will need one Tilda Chic Escape or similar strip (Jelly) roll.

2m of backing/cornerstones fabric.

60” square of wadding.

Divide your fabrics into the colour groupings.  Pinks, blues, greens, greys and yellows.

Set aside 6 strips for the sashing. Sub cut each of these into three, 2 1/2″ by 14 1/2” rectangles. I chose the pale background strips for my sashing.

From plain cut 26, 2 1/2” squares. 10 for your central squares of the block, 16 for the cornerstones of the sashing. 

To make the Lazy Logs take a 2 1/2” plain fabric square and place it right sides together with the first strip at one end. Join with a scant 1/4” seam. Repeat with the remaining 9 squares.  I joined two at a time to the same strip but you could mix and match them.

Cut the strip level with the squares.  Press the seam to the ‘dark side’. Take another strip and place right sides together and repeat. Continue joining strips working your way around the block.  I continued to add twelve strips which gives a 14 1/2” block, rotating around the central square. 

A slightly different take would be to make Courthouse Steps by adding to the opposite sides of the square. 

Take the sashing strips and join the Cornerstones to make four sashing rows, alternating square with rectangles.

Adding Cornerstones to Sashing rectangles.

Join the remaining sashing strips to either side of the blocks to make three block rows.

Join the rows together with the sashing rows.

The backing was pieced using the left over block and strips.

Join the longer strips to make enough binding.  You will need a length of 210” for continuous binding.

Layer and quilt as desired. 

New Toy Alert! – Clover Fabric Tube Maker

I am a sucker for a new toy, especially when they actually make light work of a tricky task.  The new Clover Tube Maker is one such item that I was lucky to be sent from Groves.  A little device, similar to bias binding makers, which folds over both fabric and wadding to make a combined fabric tube.  You can use these combined tubes to make things such as the strip roll (or Jelly Roll) rugs that have been popular recently but also mats, bowls, baskets and bags.

One of my students wants to make one of these rugs and I’ve always wanted to have a go too. I have been collecting strips of fabric, ideal for using up left over binding strips, and cutting left over wadding into strips with this in mind.  

At first I was a little confused about how to make it work or fit the fabric in but checked out the very helpful and clear YouTube video from Clover demonstrating exactly how to use it.  You can find that here.

You start by joining all your strips of fabric and wadding together. First, join the strips in the same way as for binding with a angled seam to help spread the seam allowance.  You can join the wadding by butting the edges and zig zag across the join. Do not overlap the wadding which would give you a ridge which we don’t want.   

Take the 2 1/2” strip of fabric and the 2 1/2” strip of wadding and layer them together. Wadding on the wrong side of the fabric. The maker is made up of four plastic gadgets which clip together into pairs, a larger pair and a smaller pair.  The fabric and wadding strips feed through the gadget which folds as you go to form the tubes. The tube is then fed through your sewing machine and you sew the tube as it forms. 

It is recommended that a thinner wadding is used but I used out a variety of left over waddings – 80/20, pure cotton and bamboo – and all went through smoothly.  

I have been gathering strips to make enough for a good sized rug. You can see I’ve selected a colour palette of greys through pinks with a little green. I did try and keep the darker colours on the outside of the strips as this will be the area of a rug that will collect most dirt.

You can find many YouTube videos to watch on how to make the rugs, some round, some oval and I found a rectangular one too which cut lengths of the fabric tubes and joining them rather than sewing all in one piece.  This would be useful to make rectangular table mats too. It is recommended that you press every round when attaching the fabric tube to help keep it flat at sometimes they can curl upwards when making the mats.  

My Colour Selection

If you have wondered how to make one of these rugs, just grab one of these Clover Fabric Tube Makers and get going.

What’s New? – Chic Escape, A New Machine and Free Motion Fun!

It’s been a busy summer.  Hosting a Ukrainian family, having my son and his girlfriend home from Uni and working all through has had the knock on effect that I have not done as much sewing as I would like. I have done a bit though and one item I’m working on is a Lazy Log Cabin quilt which uses a strip roll. In this instance I’m using the beautiful (and I think it’s my favourite range from Tilda so far) Chic Escape. I just love the peacocks and blousy flowers.  The colour palette is rich with teals and greens, rusts, blues and pinks. I will follow up with a free pattern as soon as the quilt is together.  A big thank you to Groves for allowing me to play with the Chic Escape.

My Aunt and I also made our annual trip to The Festival of Quilts at the NEC in August. Previously I have always been working for British Patchwork and Quilting magazine so this year it was a novelty to spend the whole time just enjoying the show.  We did a mini workshop on the Sunday, which is great for a little sit down, but the biggest thing I did there was to purchase a sit-down Long Arm machine.  A Bernina Q20 will be coming soon to Strictly Quilting HQ. To say I can’t wait is an understatement and I shall certainly let you all know when she arrives.  To make room, I need to sell my large worktable which is perfect for quilting but is big! If anyone is interested, contact me for details.

You may know that I’m involved with Quilts 4 Care Leavers and for the month of September I am the ‘block Mumma’ – heading the block drive for this month. For those that may not know, a block drive is when a call is put out for individual blocks which are added together to make quilts. A great way to join in if you can not commit to a full quilt. In this instance they will come together for the Q4CL charity who hand out quilts at Christmas events for young persons leaving care. The block I used was the Four Hs. Simple, quick to piece and uses 2 1/2” scraps.  You can find the free block here if you would like to take part (or if you would just like the free pattern!) I would also encourage you to join one of the Facebook groups which you have to be a member of before joining the block drive page. 

Q4CL (Wales) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/4963087803788014 

Q4CL – https://www.facebook.com/groups/QuiltsforCareLeaversMakers 

Cecilia and I have been busy preparing for the Sewical Retreat too. This is approaching rapidly, 18th to 20 November, and we only have three spaces remaining. We have been planning the mini workshops and I can’t stop Cecilia adding to these. We were meant to have four but have added a Free Motion workshop to make it five, all included but all optional. If anyone would like to join us for a fully catered weekend of sewing time you can find the details in the blog below or on the Workshop page. 

I have also booked Cecilia for her fabulous three day Free Motion Quilting course again, early next year.  Three days, a month apart to allow time for practice, where she takes you through Free Motion Quilting. We discuss machine set up, marking out and there is plenty of time for practice of a variety of patterns including grid work, free-flowing patterns and feathers. Refreshments and a buffet lunch is included each of the days. Sunday 5th February, Sunday 5th March and Sunday 2nd April. £170 for the three days. For full details, or to book, visit the Workshops page or email Helen at helen@strictlyquilting.com

Soya Mix from Vlieseline 

Vlieseline were kind enough to send me some of their Soya Mix wadding to try out for the first time.  I love natural fibres,  using 100% cotton a lot of the time, so  I was keen to give this a go.  Obviously, I needed to make a quilt to try with it, but what?

At the Festival of Quilts 2021 I got chatting with Abigail Sheridan de Graaff, winner of the Modern Quilt category and she suggested I have a go at this section of our art form.  I’m normally a traditional quilter so was quite inspired by this challenge.   

I decided to take inspiration from traditional Welsh frame quilts using a distinctive and bold black and red coulourway.  The quilt design came together quickly with large Flying Geese and blocks of black set against the red of my chosen background.  But how to quilt it?  

This was my first foray into Modern but I wanted to use the same influence from the old Welsh quilts. A Celtic Knot pattern, repeated in both the black sections and on the red of the background.  It was quite closely quilted and I’d used a walking foot to ensure I kept the lines straight.

But let’s now turn to how the wadding performed.  It has a lovely, soft feel to it and drapes beautifully.  The denser quilting I used does make this quite a rigid quilt but this is a wall hanging, so this is better to help hold it flat.  Now, most Modern quilts are very flat so I’m guessing that not many people wash their modern quilts. I chose to thinking I wanted to get a little shrinkage – that wrinkled ‘aged’ look as this was part of the inspiration.  What I didn’t expect was quite how much this did shrink.  More that other waddings I normal use but this does not mean that I didn’t like it.  It certainly gives the quilt an antiqued look. 

Overall this wadding is easy to work with, little to no bearding which was is beneficial when working with black and softly draping.  The shrinkage was more than I expected but this is not something which bothers me. I will certainly use this again, especially if I want a rustic, antiqued look. 

We’re Going on Retreat!

Strictly Quilting has some brilliant news – We are going on Retreat!

As followers of Strictly Quilting you may know that a retreat has been on the cards for some time. Imagine – a whole weekend fully catered dedicated to our wonderful hobby of patchwork and quilting. Having been on a few over the years, I can honestly say, I’ve enjoyed every one. 

Earlier this year I invited the brilliant teacher Cecilia Slinn to run a Free Motion Quilting course for Strictly Quilting. Those that attended enjoyed it immensely and it certainly stretched my skills.  Sometimes you meet someone who shares the same passion for your hobby. Someone you just get on with and Cecilia and I certainly hit it off. 

We have both been involved with patchwork and quilting for a similar amount of time coming at it from different aspects, we compliment each other well and recognise each others skill set. During one of the Free Motion days, we began to hatch the retreat plan. 

Cecilia’s love of quilting began just over a decade ago when she made a Sampler Quilt. Since then, Cecilia has gone from strength to strength embracing and enjoying all aspects of patchwork and quilting from Wholecloth quilts to vintage art pieces. She now specialises in Free Motion Quilting for which she has won awards and regularly gives talks to groups across the country. 

Another passion is teaching and she finds it immensely gratifying helping students to lose their fear of Free Motion Quilting and develop their skills. Concentrating on teaching techniques, Cecilia has a selection of workshops and courses to choose from on her website. She is a member of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles and runs a craft and sewing group near her home in Montgomery on the border of England and Wales. 

You will be able to see Cecilia’s work on display at Grosvenor quilt shows across the country this Autumn/Winter show season and you can find her courses and see more of her work on her website.

Like Cecilia, I have sewn since childhood and discovered patchwork and quilting a decade ago at a local quilt shop. Having fallen in love with the craft, I went on to become the assistant editor for British Patchwork and Quilting magazine for a number of years. This involved designing quilts for publication, writing features and visiting many shows and exhibitions where I was lucky enough to meet many of the leading names. Through this, I expanded my knowledge of all things quilting from technical methods to the expansive history, which I find fascinating.

Strictly Quilting HQ

Over the past few years I built a workshop cabin in the garden and now teach most days in the beautiful surroundings of South Wales. ‘Sit and Sew’ sessions are Strictly Quilting’s most popular sessions where students bring projects to work on with assistance, advice and technical support. A full range of project and technique workshops are also available on the website. I am also a member of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles and regularly blogs for the website, UKQU, where her on-line shop can be found. 

One of the retreat locations I have visited before is Hillscourt. Some may know of this already, but it is a conference centre where we can sew all day, enjoy fabulous food in a relaxed environment. Each in their own single, en-suite room with all food provided. The only thing to think of is which project to bring!

The idea is to bring and work on your own projects.  Perhaps you have a UFO which you are desperate to finish,  maybe you would like to work on some Christmas projects or do you have something that you are stuck on?  This would be an ideal time to get them finished. There will be four optional mini workshops included, Cecilia and I running two each which you can join should you wish to.

These include a Machine Needle Roll and Podlet Pouch from Cecilia and a Sewing Machine Mat with Pincushion and, for some little light hand sewing relief, a Redwork Christmas decoration from myself.  

I will be bringing a selection of notions from Strictly Quilting HQ,  just in case you forget anything, but we will also have Andrea from Black Mountain Fabrics joining us bringing a selection of fabrics should you like to have a little retail therapy. 

The full details of what’s included are as follows:

Friday: Arrival, set up and sewing from 12:00, hotel room check in from 14:00. Afternoon refreshments and 3 course evening meal. 
Saturday: Full English or Continental breakfast, morning refreshments, sandwich buffet lunch, afternoon refreshments, 3 course evening meal.
Sunday: Full English or Continental breakfast, morning refreshments, sandwich buffet lunch, afternoon refreshments.
2 nights overnight accommodation in single, en-suite rooms equipped with:
• Freeview TV • Wi-Fi • Combination safe
• Hairdryer • Tea/coffee facilities • Free parking on site
Unrestricted use of the sewing room from 9:00 until 21:00.
Ironing boards and irons will be available in the sewing room.
Support of two Tutors during daytime sessions. (9:00 to 17:00)
Also included are four, mini workshops. Machine Needle Roll, Podlet Pouch, Redwork Christmas
decoration and a Sewing Machine Mat with pincushion. (Materials are not included and a requirements list will be sent out prior to the event.)
Trader: Black Mountain Fabric and Strictly Quilting will be joining us with a selection of fabrics and basic quilting supplies and notions. 


NOT INCLUDED:
Bring your own sewing machine and equipment, together with the projects you wish to work on. Please ensure your machine is serviced and operational – we may not have the time to repair machines. Drinks, other than the above listed are not included but can be purchased from the onsite bar. 

The cost of the retreat is £345.  £50 deposit (non-refundable) secures your place, with two further payments of £147.50 due by 31st July 2022 and 30th September 2022. 

Date: 18th to 20th November 2022.

Should you be interesting in joining us on this wonderful weekend of Sewical fun,  please email Helen at helen@strictlyquilting.com and we will send you a booking form with all the details.

Oliso TG1600 ProPlus Iron

An iron is an essential tool when making quilts and for general sewing. I’ve got several which I keep in my wonderful cabin at Strictly HQ but when I was offered the chance to test out the new Oliso SmartIron Pro Plus, I couldn’t wait. 

The box arrived and I expected to have to sit down, cup of tea in hand, and read through the manual. Nope! A simple three step start up and you are away. Fill whilst unplugged, choose your setting and steam level, plug in and, when the green light is steady, away you go. The side fill tank is so much easier too. 

Oliso Smart Iron

The new TG1600 has improved what is a first class iron. You may have seen these on YouTube or vlogs – irons that, when let go, arise magically to reduce the risk of scorching, burns and tipping. You touch the handle and the ‘legs’ slink back in leaving the new diamond ceramic-flow™ soleplate to smooth those wrinkles and banish creases. It really is a thing of beauty. The plate is also designed to ensure a swift and easy clean when using fusible products. (Although, woe betide anyone that mucks up my new iron!)  

One feature is the 1800 watts of power. I suppose I don’t normally worry about this but I was surprised at the speed it heated up, so it’s obviously made a difference. Something which also makes a difference is the extended 30 minutes shut-off facility, added especially with quilters in mind. The irons I have either don’t have a cut off or power down just as you need to use them. Really annoying when you have lots of units to press and find the iron has gone cold. 

Another thing I loved about this iron was the extra long power cord – 12 feet! This makes using in the cabin a dream as normal irons can be a little limiting. The cord also pivots a full 360 degrees giving easy movement in any direction.

But let me talk about how it actually works in an operational sewing studio. Well, let’s just say it has become one of my favourite tools. For those who want to take their piecing to the next level, pressing is one important element. One of my previous blogs covers pressing which you can find here. This steam iron certainly takes pressing up several notches. I don’t always keep water in my irons in the cabin as sometimes the water can go a little yucky if left for a while. This is not something I needed to worry about with this iron. The wide, side fill tank is not only easy to fill but easy to empty. This is recommended if leaving for a few days. The steam shot is good, powerful and can be used when pressing or when upright – handy if steaming clothing when dressmaking. 

As stated the cable length made it easy to move around with but I did find the iron a little heavy. This could be that my other irons are quite light in comparison. Having said that, the weight is well balanced and a heavier iron is helpful in getting a good flat finish. Now we come to the actual rising feature of the iron. I simply say – I love it. It took me a while to get used to just letting go of the iron rather than standing it up every time. After a little while of using it, this did become natural. I also realised that the claim that it saves the strain on the wrists was true. I found that just letting it go rather than lifting it certainly reduced strain. Of course, I’ll have to watch I don’t do that when I go back to my household iron! 

Overall this beast is certainly worthy of adding to your craft room. A solid piece of equipment, in an attractive bright yellow, is perfectly designed for the quilter. 

Jubilee Runner – Free Pattern

This year has been one full of events from the end of Covid restrictions to the beginning of the Ukraine conflict. Both of these have had an impact on my life, meaning I haven’t done as much blogging as I’d have liked. I am in need of a celebration and the Queens Platinum Jubilee is certainly one to break out the bubbly for.

Jubilee Table Runner

70 Years on the throne. What an achievement and we are hoping to hold an afternoon tea, albeit in the caravan. Is this where I show my age – I remember the Silver Jubilee, taking part in the fancy dress competition in an outfit my mother made. (I dressed as Britannia but the witch won – I was robbed!) To brighten the table I just couldn’t resist creating a Jubilee Table Runner which is quick and easy for those with a little experience but still easy enough to run up for beginners.

Lewis and Irene have brought out the perfect fabric with their Jubilee collection and I had been given a fabulous collection of Gütermann Threads. They are 30 wgt., thicker than I usually use, 100% cotton and in a lovely range of colours. When looking around my sewing room I realised there were the perfect trio of colours in the pack – red, white and blue.

You can download the free pattern in pdf form if you would like to make the runner and the fabrics are available from many of our Local Quilt Shops. You could go for the traditional red, white and blue mixture but I have also made this runner in a smaller size for my coffee table using a pretty spring charm pack. 

Jacob’s Ladder is the block used in the runner. A traditional block with its roots in the Pioneering age of America where many blocks gained their name from the one book which was commonly taken on the waggon trips across the many thousands of miles – the Bible. It is also known under other names such as Stepping Stones or Road to California. Apt for the journeys these people made. 

I used the Gütermann threads to piece the blocks and it went together smoothly with no excess lint, gave a neat finish and sank into the fabric nicely when pressed. All these features help to give a perfect finish to your piecing. Having a pack such as this was perfect as sometimes you want to make a project quickly and being able to dip into a thread collection for just the right colour is brilliant.

The packs contain 12 reels in a variety of popular colours including the very useful white and black, dark and mid blue, red, cream, gold, mid and dark brown, mid and dark green and a grey. There are 300m per reel and these threads can be used for many applications. Gütermann threads are one of my go too ones. Reliable, good quality, I never have a problem with them. Coupled with the fact they are reasonable priced I do keep them in for most projects from dressmaking to quilting.

I decided to use some of these to complete the quilting on the borders, the darker blue for the narrow border and the red for the outer border. As I was practicing my Free Motion Quilting I decided to go for a thread which wouldn’t be seen quite so much on the main blocks as I wanted the fabrics and their wonderful patterns to shine through.

If you would like to download the free pdf pattern you can do so here:

The Gütermann Creativ value packs can be found in all good retailers. 

Bird of Paradise Cushion Workshop

As you may know, I blog for UKQU website – a wonderful resource for anyone interested in the world of fabric and also where my shop is hosted. They sometimes set challenges and we had one in 2020. (I was typing last year but it’s two years ago! – Where did that time go?) Way back in the first lockdown. I’d lost all my work that year between the stopping of workshops, redundancy and a ‘career break’ so I had found myself with plenty of time but a bit down. Luckily the sun was shining and sitting outside sewing was a good remedy.

2020 Free UKQU Flower block.

But what to do? I’d been playing with Hawaiian quilting and I do like a bit of hand sewing, so I decided to do a British take using leaves and flowers from my own garden as inspiration. The free pattern download for the smaller version can be found here. The full sized version ended up appearing in British Patchwork and Quilting magazine and was a good lesson for me – not really liking it until the quilting was added. The echo quilting made a huge difference and now I love it. This version was called Hawaiian Staycation as there was no way anyone was going on holiday that year!

The 2022 flower challenge was set and mine was the Bird of Paradise flower. Strelitzia Reginae, also known as a Crane Flower, native to South Africa and a stunningly, exotic choice.  Another one that reminded me of far away locations.

You may remember seeing some of the Dragon wall hangings which have also become workshops. As it happened, I was hosting one of these for Black Mountain Fabrics up in Abergavenny the weekend the challenge was set so I decided to use the same Draw, Stitch and Trim appliqué technique. This is relatively new onto the P&Q scene but one I came across some years ago. It’s very like painting by numbers, only with fabric.

For this one I found a beautiful piece of variegated batik fabric which was reminiscent of a tropical sea…. The flower itself, as we know, is bold and beautiful so again, batiks were my go to choice with the stunning orange taking centre stage.

What to make once the flower was completed was the next question. It was about the right size for a cushion and so the decision was made. A simple envelope back and it was done. (Don’t forget – use a cushion pad larger than the cover to give it a luxurious feel. My cover is 18″ square, the cushion pad 20″.) I’m really pleased with the result and am thinking it will look stunning on the garden furniture in the summer.

If you would like to make your own version of this cushion and learn the Draw, Stitch and Trim technique you can join me at the cabin for a day workshop on Saturday 9th July. Just email me at Helen@strictlyquilting.com for more details.

Beginners Day Workshop

Begin your patchwork and quilting journey with Helen from Strictly Quilting.

Sat 19th February, 10 – 4, £50.

We will begin with choosing your fabrics, learning which fabrics make the best choice. How to cut using traditional template or rotary cutters, which make things much easier. Perfect piecing is the key to good patchwork and we have lots of hints and tips to take you through how to sew your patchwork together.

Layering and quilting will be explained and finally, we will bind our project to finish the edges.

There are many different techniques and avenues patchwork and quilting can take you down but the first step is the hardest. Helen is on hand to make this easy and you will often hear her say “you are only ever sewing two bits of fabric together, nothing to be scared of.”

The workshop runs from 10 – 4 on Sat 19th February at Strictly Quilting HQ, Dingestow, just outside Monmouth. Cost for the day is £50. We have a maximum of five people to ensure all receive individual attention.

For more information and to book your place, please email Helen at Helen@strictlyquilting.com