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Welcome to the Modern Quilt Group November 2017 Newsletter

header october 17
A quiet time of year for Modern, an opportunity to get on with various projects appropriate to the season.

A word (or two) from the Editor

Cold War: We are finally starting to feel the chill here in the utter East, this month has brought the first real frost of the season - more like ice actually with fantastic swirling patterns on the roof of the car. Makes me want to go and sew curves, when I've got some feeling back in my fingers! What with that and the exceptionally high tides, thanks to the second super-moon on the year, and the everlasting wind of the flatlands we are reminded constantly of the changing seasons. I know it is tempting to stay close to the fire at this time of the year, and the early dark gives us a good excuse to get on with some sewing in the warm, but it is still worth wrapping up (on a dry day) and getting out for some fresh air. There is still lots to see and the sunsets this month have been spectacular. I find a walk clears the mind and gives a chance to think over what's happening and make plans. I am lucky (if that is the right word) to have to go out with a large, energetic and enthusiastic dog morning and evening; rain snow or blow - he needs his exercise. Strangely I find the walk much more beneficial if I look out on the countryside and take in my surroundings rather than constantly looking at my feet. I think quilting is much the same - yes you need to look at your feet occassionaly so you don't stumble, but you need outside stimulus, to look beyond your own little world and see what other people are doing, and be open to new sights an experiences. Inspiration can be drawn from the most unexpected places!

I am relieved to say that my earworm has finally been laid to rest, thanks to Jan A. who suggested I look of YouTube! Marvellous - I would never have though of that - the whole album (which never made it further than vinyl) was available to listen to. So I spent a nostalgic hour and now my brain is peaceful again.

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

Helen's Ramblings

As the year blows soggily to a close, I find I’m spending a lot of nice peaceful time finishing stuff; quilting with the radio on and the curtains drawn against the darkness. For only the second time* in my long sewing life, I have a new sewing machine, a big industrial straight-stitch Juki of lovely power and serious speed.. Such luxury.. So, I made a new pattern for the MQGB website, and what did it need? Mostly the iron. Link elsewhere in this newsletter, and we plan to carry on with at least one free pattern per month for a good while yet. I already have December’s treat cut out and ready to make…

And it’s a good time to finish up all the small administrative stuff before we hit the madness of Christmas. I STILL have asome quilts which were in the 2015 and 2016 Challenges sitting around here. I will email the makers again, but be warned, they would make good pot-holders or dog beds. Several people have said “Oh, I forgot I sent one” which, if understandable, is a bit sad.. I’ve been contacting people about showing the Cottonopolis quilts next year, and we’ are always interested in showing some or all of these in new places.

On a more serious note, I really have to stop being co-ordinator in April, and if no-one wishes to take this on, it’s entirely possible that the Group will fold. I know one of you must really fancy doing this, and it’s not difficult… PLEASE! It would be such a waste to lose all this.

*My first new machine was for sewing up knitting, a Hague Linker. Great fun, but I don’t machine-knit any more, thank goodness

Nice little puff for the Group in December’s British Patchwork and Quilting magazine, complete with HH, HH, and Old Sewing Machine

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Yellow Brick Road

QUILT STORIES: Headline News

Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
by Helen Butcher

A year or so ago, when I was still quite new to The Quilters' Guild, I was asked to contribute a piece for a Festival of Quilts gallery called 'In The Spotlight'. At that point I was not aware of what all this meant, but I was soon to find out. 'In The Spotlight' is a gallery curated by the Guild itself every other year and is for up-and-coming professional quilters who have not yet made a name for themselves. Each of the Guild's 15 (?) regions and five special groups are asked to put forward a person to participate. The participants are then given word or phrase as a starting point from which to generate a piece of work. I was honoured to be asked to represent The Modern Group and the phrase we were all given was 'No place like home'.

My mind immediately sprang to the 1939 film 'The Wizard of Oz' and images of ruby slippers, whirling farmhouses and cackling, stripy stockinged witches. Was this all too obvious? Would everyone else be thinking on the same lines? (Incidentally, anyone who visited the gallery in it's obscure hiding place behind a pillar at FOQ17 will have noticed very little reference to this film, and the various interpretations of the original phrase were as diverse as one could wish for.) I played around with various ideas, but my mind kept coming back to Dorothy's journey through Oz and in particular the Yellow Brick Road. I recalled a song by Elton John called 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' which tells of a country boy's disillusionment with the rich city high-life and his wish to go home: home being, in effect, Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. So I started playing with the idea of bricks and spirals and the eventual disintegration of the yellow brick raod. Also a great way to use the collection of lovely mustard yellows I have been gathering.

My favourite piecing method has got to be foundation paper piecing. I love the accuracy it can achieve, and what better way to break a circle into an unequal number of segments which will then fit back together perfectly. So, as is my wont, I made a small test piece to check if my theory would work and where any snags or pitfalls might occur. I ironed out various challenges (literally) but the biggest problem was having nineteen seams meeting in the centre of the circle - this needed a creative solution and so, trusting one would present itself in time, I started on the final quilt.

Whereas the foundation for the small piece which all fitted on one large sheet of paper on the full sized version each of the foundation segments had to be drawn out on a separate strip of paper and individual bricks pieced. Lots of pins and a fair amount to cursing later I was very glad of the stabilising paper foundation when it came to joining long, bias cut pieces together. During its construction I was discussing the problem of the bulky centrepoint with a quilting friend and she suggested cutting it away altogether. Genius! So after quilting - in a spiral from that damn centrepoint - I made a facing piece and, having stitched it in place, I cut a hole in the middle of my quilt. That was one of the most nerve-racking moments ever. I must confess to being very pleased with the finished quilt. I was even more pleased (understatement of the year) when this quilt won Best Art Quilt at the West Country Quilt Show in September


FREE PATTERN: Fantastic Folded Fabric Bunting

CLICK HERE to visit the patterns page

sewing machine?

SEWING MACHINES FOR BEGINNERS (and more advanced students!)

by Helen Howes NEW SERIES: PART 2 - When Did You Last Clean Your Machine?

Many modern machines come with the instruction “do not oil” - this is just silly. Any place where metal runs on metal will eventually need lubrication, and although some modern bearings arrived impregnated with oil ("sintered”) this just does not last forever. If you bought a nice puppy, and it came with a piece of paper instructing you “don’t feed him, he will only squeak for a little while” you would be deeply unimpressed, and quite rightly. And the puppy would die..

Now, when you sew, whatever sort of thread and fabric you use, fluff will accumulate. This usually falls down around the bobbin area of your machine, where it assumes an interesting greyish-pink colour totally unlike anything you have sewn with. It’s a Really Good Idea to remove this from time to time, as it does nothing for the quality and accuracy of your sewing.

So, after about 8 hours of sewing..

Turn off your machine and uplug it. (You should also always unplug your machine when not using it.)

Remove the bobbin, and the bobbin case. Almost all machines have screws holding the needle-plate down - remove these or snap the plate off. The bobbin cases on drop-in machines will lift out at this point. Removable bobbin cases generally sit in a “race” which will also open up. Brush the case clean.

Take a cotton-bud (Q-tip for overseas readers) and dip it in Sewing Machine Oil (not 3-in-1, or cooking oil, or margarine, or some random sticky stuff from the cupboard, and most definitely not WD40) - if your local shops don’t have it then any really good fine oil designed for machinery will do; try the gun shop or electrical parts suppliers. Or ebay. Wipe around the area under and behind the bobbin with this oily device. This will pick up amazing amounts of fluff and simultaneously deposit just enough oil to lubricate the region without causing deposits on your cloth. Keep wiping and removing fluff and replacing the cotton-bud until the detritus is all gone. Then do it again, probing a little deeper, and making sure you get in behind everything. Open the top of your machine if it has obvious screws, and add one drop of oil into every moving part, gently turning the machine over. (If your machine has a completely unopenable case, just oil the bobbin area and perhaps the needle bar.)

Don’t drown it; do allow the machine to run gently. Avoid any belts or tyres, and plastic gears. I often find that, on oiling, the machine is rather faster than before… And usually quieter.

Now, with a little brush (I use cheap children’s toothbrushes and paintbrushes a lot), clean out any crevices, re-assemble the bobbin case and plates, and run the machine for a row or two of stitches on a piece of clean kitchen paper. Wipe the outside with a very slightly damp cloth, and then dry it - any sticky-tape residue can be removed with lighter fluid.

A clean machine is so much happier..

This is the result of a week of concertrated making - something supremely satisfying about defluffing!

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 of 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