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Welcome to the Modern Quilt Group January 2018 Newsletter

header january 2018
The MOD-Q diary is already filling up with exhibitions and events for the forthcoming year. Come and visit, get involved or enter a challenge.

A word (or two) from the Editor

New Year, New You: well, perhaps that is rather too much for anyone to hope for, but since I am not one for resolutions I might just get through what is, for me, the most trying month of the year, without too many feelings of inadequacy! Determined as I am to reduce my seasonal Black Dog to the size of a chihauhau I started theyear with two new designs to use as my entries for this year's challenge FOOLING THE EYE. Since Iset this theme, I thought I had better get off my backside and actually produce something. Keeping busy has really helped;planning, scribbling, sewing and showing these designs to friends, although on occasions I haven't felt like talking to anyone, has made me look outwards rather than inwards - onwards, rather than dwelling on the unchangeable past. It would be so easy at this time of year to curl up under a blanket by the fire and ignore the world, and during the dark evenings that is an appealing occupation. However we all need some outside stimulus to get our brains back in gear after a surfeit of Christmas. An interesting exhibition, a hitherto unseen quilting book (a visit to the library might be surprisingly worthwhile) a flick through last year's magazines before you turf them out, and, of course, a good delve through your stash might just be the kick-start you need. You can find inspiration for different colour combinations everywhere - try them out from your stash, stroke fabrics, think about possible projects and look forward. And remember; chocolate is for life, not just for Christmas, as HelenH says, dark chocolate is good for the brain- believe it!

I am really pleased to tell you that Modern will be showing and demonstrating at West Country Quilt Show again this year so we have a perfect showcase for all ouroptical illusion and 3-D style quilts

Anything you want to share with the MOD-Q group? Contact me on

Helen's Ramblings

Well, it's a New Year, and we have been bashing my stash. I try to assess and compress and inspect my not-inconsiderable piles of fabrics at regular intervals. This time (I didn't manage it last New Years') we got absolutely everything out of the boxes, tidied, assessed, discarded (oh, how we discarded!) and re-packed the boxes. With my Newsletter Editor and co-conspirator, we also cleaned carpets; rid the stock of everything the least bit tired; bought new storage boxes; gave away scads of unwanted cloth; drank a lot of tea, and ate chocolate. This last is a most important part of the process, of course? Dark chocolate is good for the brain, you know.

Seriously, though, we change. My ideas as to what a Good Fabric is have not entirely reversed, but it's so easy at the beginning to buy only the 'interesting' fabrics, the medium shades, the jolly prints, the pussycats? For good quilts we also need neutrals, darks, shades, tints, prints-which-read-as-solids. Greys. A piece of work with only one or two fabrics may be delightful. Or it may be frightful.. Contrast is everything.. Personally, I really dislike quilts-from-one-designer's-new-range.. And jelly rolls are fun, but you need some plains with them...

So, gather a friend or two. Turn out your drawers. Drink tea and make up little bagfulls for your local quilt group to dive in to. Give stuff to people who can't or won't buy new. Other people's cloth is so much more amusing than one's own. And after all that, eat chocolate, cut, and Sew! HH

Contact me on uk

Do a little dance
Do a Little Dance by Maria Shell

QUILT STORIES: Headline News

Some Thoughts on Sharing
by Maria Shell

Sharing matters because it advances our art form in a way that is directly in line with the maker philosophy. Quilt making has a long tradition of being passed from maker to maker in an informal manner. We learn by asking each other questions, by experimentation and sharing, by beinggenerouswith our ideas and techniques. We understand that we were standing on other quilt makers' backs.

Not long ago there was a big kerfuffle in the (American) Modern Quilt world. The higher-ups issued a complicated decree which basically said this. If you have created a quilt that was derived from a teacher's pattern, book, or workshop you must get their permission to enter it into QuiltCon. This was alarming and confusing. The quilt making tradition is heavily based on the use of patterns and work learned from others. It is normal and expected that if you were to enter such a quilt in a competition, you would publicly share where your source materials came from, but you would not have to ask permission to show the quilt. Who really knows the original maker of the hexagon quilt block? My guess is Barbara Brackman knows and most likely the true creator is no longer with us. It is not some modern potentate, I can tell you that.

Why ask permission? The only answer I can think of is that the teacher who re-invented _______ (fill in the blank here - negative space, paper piecing, or improv work) now thinks that they have ownership of that quilting concept which more likely than not has been around for decades, and all they have done is put a little bit of spit shine on it.

I don't like that. I get it though. It is about monetizing and ownership and territory. And it is about fear - fear that someone will steal from you and benefit from that taking. It is about branding and labeling and marketing.

CLICK HERE to visit Maria's blog "Tales of a Stitcher" and read the entire article

True Confessions
True Confessions - Cacophony/Euphony by Maria Shell
40 x 30 inches


by Helen Howes

Maria Shell

Improv Patchwork - Dynamic Quilts made with Line and Shape
Stash Books (
ISBN 9781617454967

I waited absolutely ages for this book, but I think it was worth it. I will put in a plea for your Local Bookshop here, or at least a specialist online supplier of books. I have had good service from my local chap at
Beccles Books, and usually get almost anything in print in a couple of days. It wasn't his fault; just not imported as fast as perhaps.

And Kaleidoscope Books in Milgavie have a fast turn-around and are Nice People..

Anyway, I saw some of the quilts shown in this book, plus some inspired by it, on Pinterest, which can be wonderful. Or a time-suck. Or both.

I don't usually buy books of how-tos, as I can make most sorts of things, but this one seemed worth a much more in-depth look. So, when it arrived, we sat across the table at lunchtime and read bits out - I really like the philosophy as well as the cutting-and-joining-together that is set out so nicely here...

Quotes: "Color
Your job as a quiltmaker is to harness the power of color and use it to create vivid compositions"

"Workspace and tools
Empower yourself to do the best work you can by using only quality tools, supplies, and materials"

I like this

You will see the link to Maria's blog elsewhere in this newsletter, and I hope you will add this one to your lists of eminently-readables..

And the book? I defy you not to make these lovely ideas infiltrate your quilting...

fabric postcards

FREE PATTERN: Fabric Postcards

CLICK HERE to visit the patterns page

sewing machine?

SEWING MACHINES FOR BEGINNERS (and more advanced students!)

by Helen Howes NEW SERIES: PART 4 - It's just a foot?
This is the original "Quilt Foot" that Singer machines came with - just a guide, really

OK, Hands up, those of you who are unwilling to change the feet on your machines?
Thought so. Well, you ought to really, as the general purpose foot that is supplied if all fine and dandy for sewing curtains or hemming a frock, but you are all specialist sewists, in that you quilt and piece. So, you need the Right Foot for the job.

Now, at this point I have to admit that for the first 20 years of my treadling, I didn't change my feet either, apart from an occasional foray into ruffling or making buttonholes. My machine came with a narrow even-sided foot called a Slim Jim, and it does pretty much everything.
When I eventually discovered quilting and "proper patchwork" (quarter-inch seams!) it was a while before my technology caught up. When it did, my pleasure, skill, and enthusiasm was increased a thousand-fold all at once...

Metal and plastic "quarter-inch" feet, and my "Slim Jim"

So, let's consider the options
For piecing, you are best using a Straight Stitch Foot of one kind or another, but you need to be sure that your machine will co-operate. If the foot is nice, but the quarter-inch is not, your patchwork can be distorted, and your blocks may come out much too small or large. (I find, as well, that if you have more than one machine, the seams tend not to agree. There is much to be said for sticking to one per project). I'm not a fan of feet with "guide blades" as they don't work on curves. And nothing beats practice - if you can see what you need to do, you will be happier..

But, when we come to quilting, there's a real need for the Proper Item. For most quilters, the Walking Foot is the one. It has little teeth or rubbery bits on top which help the upper layer to keep pace with the underneaths, and this makes the end result soooo much smoother and nicer. (It's a common fallacy that the walking foot actually feeds the top layer, this isn't so, it just stops it from catching and ruckling). Some machines have a built-in little foot which drops down behind the regular foot and works the same way - these are good, as visibility is much better. At a pinch you can use a Roller Foot for this, too, but nothing beats the Walking Foot.

Assorted Walking Feet for Bernina, Low Shank, Slant Shank, and High Shank machines - you need the Right One, of course

Of course, this is a big foot and you can't do really complicated patterns with it (you can, however, quilt with your built-in fancy stitches, so that may appeal) - just straight lines and gentle curves.
If you want to make pretty images in stitch, follow the outlines of your fabric's patterns, draw, or doodle, you need a Hopping, Darning, or Embroidery Foot (three names for the same thing)

Assorted Hoppers...

These work by holding the fabric firmly when you need to form the stitch (when the needle is down), then letting the fabric move under your direction when the needle is above the cloth, so you can alter the direction and length of the stitch yourself. These come in lots of shapes and sizes, but they all work pretty much the same way.
Now there's a secret to Free-Motion Quilting, and that is Practice. Little and often is preferable. Set a kitchen timer to 10 or 15 minutes, sew, and when it pings, stop. Do it every day, and you will be a genius at it in 3 months. Once a fortnight, and you will never get it..
Practice on scraps, not your Best Piecing, too, and smaller samples at first, not a double-bed quilt for your favourite niece.
Oh, and the other secret? It's like a good marriage - gentle hands (move slowly) and a firm foot (run the machine fast...)

Happy sewing!

qgbi sampler hh
Modern Sampler Quilt by Helen Howes

10 - 12 pm on Saturday 17th February

The Cotton Club Quilt Group are running a three day exhibition from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th February. Lynne Edwards will be doing her usual wonderful thing on the Friday (we understand), and we will be there on Saturday morning. Come along and join the fun.
Woodbridge Community Hall
Station Road
Suffolk IP12 4AU.
CLICK HERE to visit the THE COTTON CLUB'S webpage

fabric postcards
Blood Orange by Christine Seager


April 27th- May 3rd2018
Harbour House Centre for Arts & Yoga
Kingsbridge, Devon. TQ7 1JD

fabric postcards


by Brenda Corbett:

One of the quilt groups I'm in, Scrap Happy in Gosport, Hampshire, had a couple of the tutor boxes for one of their meetings last week and I found it great fun. I so liked the Tiger Tiger pattern that a few days later I had a go at it and did a small lap throw for Linus from really bright colours, thanks for the inspiration.


To man the Quilters' Guild stand at the SPRING KNITTING AND STITCHING SHOW at Olympia 1st - 4th March 2018.

If you are visiting the show and can spare some time, please contact Jane Steward on

modern at FOQ17


It is quite hard to generate enough copy to produce a newsletter every month, and I am sure you will be getting bored with seeing the same few names cropping up over and over, but the truth of it is that unless we have contributions from other readers it comes down to the sames old few!

I would welcome input from fellow group members photos, words, ideas or questions a big part of ModQ is sharing and teaching. Please send anything you would like to share to

Anything you want to share with the MOD-Q group? Contact me on

Eternal triangle


Click through to the Challenge 2018 page on the MOD-Q website for more information and dates for next year's challenge FOOLING THE EYE, as well as reminders for the return of past challenge quilts (yes, HH still has some from 2016!) Also we would like next year's challenge to go on the road if anyone has ideas of suggested venues they would be appreciated.

CLICK HERE to see the latest crop of pictures and to read all about it