Ruler Quilting – A New Approach to FMQ

This week I held the first of my new Ruler Quilting Classes. I was really excited to show the five ladies all about how rulers can be used on a domestic sewing machine to create fabulous free motion designs.  Ruler quilting offers the opportunity to switch the way you think about free motion quilting.  By using rulers you are able to create smaller, manageable structures which are great to look at on their own, or you can embellish them with more traditional free motion designs, like pebbles, ribbons, figures of eights, feathers and zig zags. During the class, there is lots of practice in the morning (or on the first evening), and in the afternoon (or second evening) the class focusing on marking and making the cushion sampler below.

In the class, we learnt about ruler feet. The ruler foot looks exactly like your darning foot, except it is thicker. It doesn’t have the bar that fits over the needle screw and it doesn’t hop. instead, it will just glide over the material. Setting the ruler foot to the correct height is critical so that the fabric moves easily, but the height of the foot is not so great such that the stitches don’t complete properly or the ruler is able to slip under.

It is now possible to spend your life savings on rulers for use with a domestic machine – however, if you buy just a few, but good ones, then that is really all you need to get started. Rulers with good markings are equivalent to extra rulers, as you can use that one ruler in more dimensions with great accuracy. Before you buy any ruler, have a good look at it and see if there are options for you to use them in different ways, for example

  • Do they have markings so that you can echo the lines you have drawn at ¼” or ½” or more
  • Do they have degree marking at 45’ or 60’ so that you can accurately create a triangle or circle of your ruler work
  • Do they have clear starting and end points that mark ¼” from the needle or have a lip to stop you going past the point
  • Do they have both horizontal and vertical lines so that you can use the ruler at 90 degrees to your work with just as much accuracy without having to twist the quilt

There is more to the ruler than just the shape of the outside edge!

I buy Handiquilter rulers and have built up a little stock now. They are beautiful but expensive. In the class, each person can use my Handiquilter Rulers, but each pupil in the class had access to all four of the rulers that Angela Walters brought out earlier this year. They are versatile, the right size for domestic quilting and all four retail at around £90 in the UK, which is much less of an investment to make to continue with ruler quilting after the class.

As with everything, it is practising that makes us proficient. Ruler quilting is definitely something for you to try – for many people, I expect this to be the breakthrough in free motion quilting that they have been looking for.

For details of further information on my Ruer Classes 1 & 2  and other GillyMac class click here.

Liberated Quilting : Finding What You Like

Years ago I bought a book called “Liberated Quiltmaking II” by a lady called Gwen Marsden. I found the whole technique that she used for improvisational piecing very refreshing. I like rules, but I also like to know how far I can bend them and this book showed me a new way to piece patchwork without so many rules or worries. Early on, I made a number of small items using this technique and gifted them away. I wish I had taken more photos of my very early work. Not because it was uber memorable, but so I could have better recorded my journey through quilting and more importantly my journey to find the things I like most in the wide array of techniques and genres that make up the patchwork and quilting world. After a lot of small pieces, I did make a quilt, very loosely based on ideas gleaned from Gwen’s book.

Around the same time as this, I found a blog by Kate Pedersen called Sew Katie Did . Kate’s improvisation technique was more controlled but created the most amazing edgy modern pieces. I remember on our first family holiday in the Lake District, taking my sewing machine and working my way through a number of the pieces in her book Quilting Modern (which funnily enough she wrote with Jacquie Gerring, who also wrote WALK, the book I reviewed for #fridayreads this month). This is a piece I made on that holiday whilst Brian fell walked with the girls.

These two pieces are strikingly different but are linked by the more free approach they take in piecing. I think with quilt making my heart probably rests somewhere between the work of Gwen and Kate. I would be more certain if I felt more confident in working around a blank canvas, the complete opposite of creating a quilt strictly from a pattern. However, I can say with certainty that this is the direction my own personal quilting is most likely to go in the coming years.

I currently teach a class once or twice a year on my own GillyMac version of Liberated Quilting. Last week there were ladies here at the studio, eating cake and challenging themselves with colour and a more relaxed approach to piecing. I am not sure if they were complete converts to throwing away patterns, but I know they all enjoyed the day, as did I in hosting it.                 

Book Review ~ WALK by Jacquie Gering

I buy alot (ALOT) of patchwork and quilting books. I am embarrassed to share with you that I often flip through them.. think ‘meeeehhhhhh’ and that is it. Another mildly expensive mistake. After buying another ‘meeehhhhh’ book a couple of weeks ago I decided that I should review and promote the really good ones I have. The ones that stand out as being well written (by someone who understands our art) and have something really informative to offer. So on the first Friday of each month from now on, I’ll be doing a book review under the hashtag #fridayreads. My blogs come out weekly on Thursdays, so for that week it will appear on a Friday (or late on Thursday Night) and will have my take on the book I am reviewing.


WALK – Mastering Machine Quilting with Your Walking Foot, by Jacquie Gering, first caught my eye because I teach a lot of ladies who seem to feel they have failed with quilting because they don’t enjoy free motion quilting (FMQ) and would dearly love to whip up one of the professional FMQ designs we see at shows or in books. This book really resets the view on Walking Foot Quilting and by the end of it you are buoyed by the fact you need never HAVE to FMQ again. 🙂 Alternatively, if like me, you do enjoy FMQ, it has taught me some excellent lessons which I will apply to my pieces nevertheless. In fact, I am itching to make book covers with my Junior Sewing Bee when they are back on Monday.

Do you skip the introduction pages of a book? I do.  I want to immediately get into the body of the book, however, this book starts with a chapter called Walking Foot 101. It shows you how to test your foot, and also how either utilise the markings and spacings on your foot or how to mark it up for success. After reading this section I immediately got out my seam guide and started measuring all over my foot – and what a difference that made to the samples I was about to work on !!!!! For me, this chapter was worth the price of the book alone. The picture here is not only of my thumb .. it is of me checking the distance from where my need would be coming down to the internal edge of the walking foot – which is precisely 1/4″.  I went on to mark my 1/4″ and 1/2″ turning points (something I’d guessed at in the past) and also create a mark to help me with curves – genius!

The book is really well produced. It is full of helpful diagrams to follow and many many pictures of Jacquie’s gorgeous quilts. The book takes you through quilting lines, curves, quilting decorative stitches as well as quilting in reverse (who knew!!) and provides designs which are achieved by turning the quilt. It concludes with a gallery of quilts made by Jacquie herself.

Curved crosshatching was one of my favourite designs  – super simple but super effective. My sample was made by marking 2 lines only. (Ta Dahhhhhh)

I also created a fan and then added some zigzags within the fan. This took a bit more marking, but the effect is great. This could be used or adapted to be used in any shape. I think it would look amazing within a set of semi-circles.

 

The tutorial for the nested diamond involved drawing a grid and then marking the turning points in the grid. I drew my grid really carefully and was a little slapdash with the turning marks, but I like the effect and can think of multiple uses for it. This design also pops the quilt, really defining the areas quilted and not quilted.

My final sample for this review was to use matchstick quilting to write a name.. Jacquie recommends this for smaller projects as it does take time and lots of thread. That said it was worth all the effort. I went off-piste here and used lock stitches at the start and end of each letter. I should have used Jacquie’s small stitch method as I think it would have been neater. I put this small error down to the excitement of making this work!

WALK is by Jacquie Gering and is published by Lucky Spool. I loved it – can you tell ?? If you are on Instagram, you can follow Jacquie via @jacquietps. In addition,  you may also want to follow @sarahashfordstudio who is also making samples and videos of lessons from this gorgeous book.

 

 

Metro Rings: Using the Quick Curve Rulers (with free quilting plan)

Deborah and I made this stunning quilt together. She did the hard work in the patchwork piecing and I got to quilt it, and whilst I wanted the background to be a brilliant white, she chose the wonderful colours that make up the rings.

It was made using the Mini Quick Curve Ruler by Sew Kind of Wonderful. At the end of last year, I invested in a number of both the mini and full-size rulers for my classes. I really like working with rulers and teaching using good rulers. The best rulers are the really versatile ones. By that, I mean ruler with good markings on them so you can move them increments of partial inches and lines on so you can cut with the ‘on point’. These rulers have all those features AND they have matching quilting rulers which are excellent for identically matching the curves, inside and outside of your piecing work.

This quilt can be made using the larger ruler, but we chose to use the smaller one as I wanted to check out the suitability of this pattern for a cot size quilt – and it doesn’t disappoint. It is built using 2″ x 10″ strips, (for the larger quilt jelly roll strips are suggested). Although the pattern suggests using 20 10″ squares, in fact, we would recommend not bothering with this and just cutting up scraps, which are 10″ long, into 2″ slices. We found that the more colour tones we used and patterns we incorporated the more interesting the final quilt became. Fabric with smaller prints work best with this quilt as larger prints would get chopped up and lost. The strips are sewn together in batches and then cut cross-ways using the ruler.

As with all our rulers, we added Handi Quilter gripper to the back of them to stop them slipping as we cut out the fabric. This is essential and the Handi-Grip product is the best one that I’ve found (and a little goes a long way).  The rulers have a slot in them that you place the rotary cutter in and move it along. We did think the slot was quite wide, but if you are consistent with how you place your cutter then this isn’t a problem.

More of an issue with the mini version Deborah was making, was that the pieces were small and partly bias cut, so were quite unstable. This meant that if you didn’t iron them they would curl slightly and not sew together well, but if you ironed them, even a little too vigorously, they would stretch and be useless.  When you test out a quilt pattern, you are most often halfway through the patchworking build before the penny drops and we see how to get it working well. This quilt was no different and after a number of goes building the curved block only to find that they were too small, we tweaked the pattern to make it ‘full proof’.

The choice of the colours used in the blocks joining the rings is really important. If you decide to make this quilt yourself, consider carefully what colour and pattern to use for these pieces. Deborah chose a Dashwood Twist in smoke and a Kona grey.

Below I have attached a free quick reference guide for quilting this piece. The correct quilting rulers make the job much easier and I enjoyed filling in the shapes I made with very basic designs. This was not a hard quilt to make look good.

 I am thrilled with this quilt. It would make a stunning baby gift or maybe one day I will get around to making the larger one for my bed! Sew Kind of Wonderful has lots of patterns using the quick curve rulers. The rulers themselves can be bought from Creative Grids, though I did have to buy the matching quilting rulers from Sew Kind of Wonderful in the USA.

 

GillyMac Metro Rings Quilting Plan

There are two classes this year to make this quilt… 20th June and 6th November, both classes are at my studio in Maidenhead and run from 10am -3.30pm – with lots of tea and homemade cakes – of course! Every student gets an original copy of the pattern to go home with.

 

Teen Modern Quilting Challenge : Part 2~ Make The Modern Minis

The Saturday morning girls are always quick to adopt new ideas and find pretty much everything we do (except hand sewing) really exciting. Lola chose to work from the picture of St Basil’s Basilica and the other 4 decided to use the picture of the Dead Sea. Just to remind you, the girls’ challenge was to use the colours and mood of the pictures but, at this stage, not to focus on the shapes in the pictures.  We divided the pictures into columns and worked on the colour palettes in these sections, building up strips of colours represented in the pictures.

The girls weren’t afraid to try inserting gentle curves in their pieces to add movement and interest. We also found that mixing the solid Kona colours with the ice dyed fabrics worked perfecting to break up the flatness you can sometimes get with plain colours alone. Once sections were completed, the next section was started using their knowledge of the combinations that worked from the last section.  We found that by cutting into the work already done and adding in Metallic Essex linen also added a sunshine sparkle to the dead sea pictures and a rich opulence to that of St Basil’s.

Over a couple of classes, the patchwork element of the mini quilts was completed and next we planned to do some line drawing of the outlines of the objects in the pictures on top of our quilts.

We used a heat transfer pencil to replicate the images we wanted to sew onto the mini quilts. This was not completely successful. Initially, tracing the outline of the pictures onto paper was quite easy. We taped the pictures and paper to the window and traced away using the special pen. At first, we didn’t reverse the image when we traced it – but trial and error sorted us out and we started again, tracing the mirror image this time.

We lay the mini quilts facing upwards on the ironing board, the traced image facing down and with a very hot iron and a dry pressing cloth and some persistence, the image transferred.  The downside of using this method was that if you took a peek to see if the image was transferred, getting the paper back down in exactly the right place to avoid double images was really hard (and we did have some double images). Also, the marks didn’t transfer as the thin pen lines we had drawn, they were thicker and more smudged. This wasn’t ideal, but we worked around that by sewing over the lines more than once.

The sewing was very successful. Jess’s larger image of a palm tree looked stunning when sewn in and even with the smaller imager, the girls all found ways to make them work.

Until this point, we hadn’t had a clear plan of what we would do with these pieces, but a casual conversation about transporting school work led to us all having the idea of making zip up folders for their school bags… We ironed the mini quilts onto single-sided R-foam to give them extra body. the girls chose lining fabric from my stash and we used metallic Essex linen for the backing. The pieces were so successful that with the remnants I made each of them coin purses.

We all loved this project. Now the girls have moved on to their piece for the Festival of Quilts in the Summer… more on that soon.

Happy Sewing …… Gill

Note: All Gill’s Child/Teen sewing classes are full at this time. To go onto a waiting list, please email mail@gillymacdesigns.com

 

Guest Blog : The Making of a Baby Quilt by Jessica

Over February half term I decided to make a baby quilt, well more like a throw. I made it as a gift to my form tutor, as his partner has just had a baby. He’s also been my form tutor for the last five years so it’s also as a thank you gift. I go to sewing classes with Gill Towell of Gillymac Designs where I have made three different and unique quilts. We have also entered two quilts as a group for the National Festival of Quilts. We came 2nd with one and got highly commended in the other.

I started by looking for fabric suitable for baby boys and found that there were lots. I then had to work out what size I needed and how many squares I needed. I bought a fat quarter bundle which came with 5 different materials. As I was short of a few squares, I bought another bundle which I thought has colours in it which would bring all the fabric together  – which indeed it did!

I started off by drawing out my pattern and seeing which patterns would work well together. I then assembled it by making blocks of 9, 3 across 3 down. I decided to have 6 squares going across by 9 squares down. Once I had made the patchwork top centre,  I added the borders which I decided to have white so that it would accentuate all of the colours in the main panel. After that, I glued it to the backing using temporary glue. I then quilted the whole thing using a walking foot creating a grid design. I finished the quilt by making my own binding and sewing it around the edge. This gave the quilt a nice finish and made the whole thing come together.

The most challenging bit was adding the binding and trying to make it look neat at the corners. I also found matching the fabrics and making it look nice was quite difficult and took a long time.

My favourite part of the quilt is how it all comes together and how the colours work well. I like how the binding finishes the edges and how it brings it all together. I would definitely make it again as I had so much fun making it. There is so much effort and concentration involved and I have learnt so much from doing it.

I would do it the same way because it’s a great design and I like the way in which it turned out.

I am giving it away sometime next week before my form tutor goes on paternity leave.

FreeSpirit & What This Means For Us

The announcement this week from Coats (owners of FreeSpirit Fabrics) was shocking in its swiftness, but the writing has been on the wall for some time, had we chosen to look at it. Coats business is dominated by its ‘Industrial’ business (around 70%) – which sells clothing footwear, threads and materials to industry. A much smaller part of the business is the Global ‘Crafts’ business – which makes and sells things to crafters, just like us.

Last Summer Coats closed it’s UK Coats Crafts business. This restructuring was an early indication that their business model was not working.  In July last year Coats posted its Half Year Results and these showed how the Craft business was performing.  It shows the Craft business was surviving on margins of ~3% in 2016 and ~6% in 2017, whereas the rest of the business was running on margins double and triple this. Then late last year, in November,  Coats posted a Trading Update which shows a decline in Coats Craft sales by 10% year on year. So in summary, Coasts had a small part of its business which was underperforming the dominant part and which was now in decline. In this light, shutting the business down maybe wasn’t such a hard decision to make.

In the trading results, there is mention of a large customer of Coats who has now started its own brand of wool and the effect that this has had on the Coats Craft business. There is also mention of the poorly performing US market. These seem a little unbelievable as the key reasons for the business failure. However, when a business fails, you will often find that the reason for the failure is something to do with the external market and never how it was it was set up, the contractual terms it had previously agreed or the way it was run.

I feel qualified to talk about business failure, having worked in telecoms for 20 years. There was a business for which the writing was on the wall, but when the wall fell on us all it was shocking and painful. With the Coats Craft business, we maybe won’t know for a while why the business really failed. The contracts with the designers would not have been inexpensive. I understand that almost all fabric is printed in South Korea so were the base products, colours and dyes really significantly different from other manufacturers? I can’t see that they were. Maybe the contractual commitments made to designers and manufacturers were so out of whack with the market that the only option was to shut down the business.

Like in telecoms, it is sad for the Coats Crafts employees, designers and the manufacturers affected, but I wonder if there will be knock-on problems for some fabric stores here in the UK.  These stores will have created there business plans for this year and next on the basis of a number of drops of new fabric collections from Coats that we would intern buy. This will not happen now, as even if the designers sign quickly for other companies, there will be a delay in production and supply of at least 6 months. So actually, our indignation at not being able to buy a fabric collection when it was planned should really be a concern for our local market, as the more fabric shops there are, the more competitive the prices will be and the more frequent and lucrative the deals will be. Now is the time to support our stores and not rely on our stash if we want our piece of the market to flourish.

 

STOP PRESS : New Year Delayed until 1st Feb

Twenty eighteen may be well underway, but,  even though the tree is down, the decorations are away and my tax is done (hurrah),  the start of my New Year is on hold until 1st February to allow me to complete more of my  ‘2017 Finishing Off List’.

There is something particularly satisfying about completing projects, and for me, there is a balance between having things on the go that I am enjoying making, which add variety to my week and which can showcase the business and then, on the other hand,  having way too much on my plate of which very little will ever get finished. Apart from in the Summer, when the push to get the girls’ projects finished for the Festival of Quilts consumed my every breath, I’ve not done too bad – thanks in the main to help along the way from Deborah and my lists to keep me focused.

I have just loaded the GillyMac gallery (see tab above) with the final images from 2017 with many of the gorgeous items made here this year. They are just a small sample of the creativity of the GillyMac Pupils.  I know that there is never a time when I will have everything completed and that thought can be overwhelming, but I started sewing to enjoy the journey, not just to complete the task… and when it all gets too much and Annie’s quilt is still not finished, or the PJs for the girls I wanted to make for Christmas are left unmade, or the quilting for the Linus project is not even started…… I need to remember to enjoy every moment of my creative time – as it is precious and important for being what it is… special time.

Defining Your Own Colour Story

It is very easy to buy a bundle of fabrics, all from the same range, because the colour combination (often called a colour story) will have been worked out for you. In the Tula Pink Tabby Road Collection, the ‘Strawberry Fields’ colourway has red grouped with pink, aqua, green and cream and it looks fantastic. I’m not sure, if faced with a blank page, I would have come up with this group, but actually, I should probably have more faith my understanding of colour,  because the basics aren’t so hard. First, you need some inspiration, like a fabric, or colour or pattern. Then you need to find fabrics and check the colour value or tone to get a good mix. So in three steps, you have it cracked? Yeah … well … maybe there is more to it …. but really, not a lot more. Let’s go through the steps.

Inspiration

You need a starting point. That is your inspiration… as I said, it could be anything as simple as a fabric you like, or a picture you want to create a quilt around, it could be the favourite colour of the person you are going to give the quilt to, it could be seasonal colours – it could be anything.

Colour Combination

Once you have a colour to start with, then you need to understand the colour wheel.

In the colour wheel above, the solid triangle is pointing to the Primary Colours of yellow, red and blue. Those are the colours which are used to create all the others on the wheel. The dashed triangle is pointing to the secondary colours. Those are the colours that are created by mixing the primary ones. For example, red and blue create purple and so on. The colours not touched by either triangle are the Tertiary Colours – these are created by mixing primary and secondary colours. There are many shades of tertiary colours. These colours around the wheel are often referred to hues of colour.

Next to learn is how to combine colours successfully.  Colours opposite each other on the colour wheel are complementary. So, referring to the colour wheel above, yellow’s complementary colours are plum, purple and violet, and red’s complementary colours are green, turquoise and lime. Colours that are close to each other on the colour wheel are referred to as analogous and can be clearly seen to co-ordinate. Finally, the colours from yellow, clockwise around the wheel, finishing with plum are known as ‘warm colours’ and those from purple around to lime are know as ‘cold colours’.

Tone and Value

The first step is all about understanding what colour tone (sometimes called value) actually is. It is not complicated to understand this, so let’s take an example. If we take green – any green – then there isn’t just one tone of the colour, there are many. Think about a paint colour card. In the diagram below various amounts of whites and blacks (shades of grey) are added to the green base colour to create this range of tones. Often you will see a colour wheel with the colours around the outside and the tones of those colours merging inwards toward the centre. So if you decided to use a green – first pick the right hue of green (for example a lime green or a moss green or an olive green etc)  and then pick the right tone for your project.  When people talk about colour value, this is all they mean. What we call ‘rich’ colours have a  deep tone (high value) and pastel colours have a low tone (light value).

If you want to check the relative value of a group of fabrics. Lay the fabrics out together and take a picture of them – then turn the picture to black and white. In this way, you can immediately see the values. Try and aim for a mix of values in the quilts you make.

In Summary

So that is it – now you are ready to create your own colour story using your inspiration for the starting point, the colour wheel to get the right base colours and then a good mix of tones/values to create interest in your piece.   Don’t forget to give your colour story a great name,  like “Strawberry Fields”, or “Marmalade” which Tula used in her Tabby Road Collection!

In saying this, the most important thing in picking the colours and fabrics for your quilts is that you like them – so treat all this as a guide and not a rule!

Should you want to go on and create your own colour wheel, then Tula Pink’s free pattern “Moxie” could easily be used to do so by replacing the recommended fabrics with solid colours in the right tones.

Good Luck and please feel free to share your work with me @gillymacdesigns on Instagram or GillyMac Designs on facebook.

Good textile-focused colour wheels can be purchased from Lady Sew and Sew and Plush Addict  I haven’t found a good one yet on Amazon!