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Welcome to the Modern Quilt Group October 2017 Newsletter

header october 17
A great big thank you to everyone who joined in with KITTENOPOLIS, see the photos below

A word (or two) from the Editor

The Sound of Silence: I am suffering from an ear-worm at the moment. I am sure you have all had one from time to time; the song that sticks in your mind and goes round and round. Perhaps it was the last song you heard on the radio before you left home in the morning, perhaps a snippet of sound heard during the day that reminds you of something else. It can get quite annoying.

I do like to have some sort of noise while I work, I find it helps the creative process. The radio or audio books are my constant companion. I have an fairly wide ranging taste in music covering most genres from classical to heavy rock (this last is thanks to my brother who played heavy metal VERY LOUD in the bedroom next to mine throughout his teenage years - you can't help but become indoctrinated!) At home the radio is set to the local station which seems to share my eclectic taste in modern music, while in the car I listen to Classic FM since it is said that classical music calms a travel-sick dog. I don't know if the dog enjoys it, but I certainly do.

Music (creating patterns with sound) is, in a way, closely allied to patchwork (creating patterns with fabric) so it is not surprising that music is an important part of life for so many creative people. Someone recently compared Modern quilting to Jazz music: improvisational, ground breaking and thought provoking. I think I can agree with all three of those. Whether you see yourself as a pioneer or not, Modern quilting is definitely going to new places.

As for my ear worm, I have finally worked out what the song is, but where I have picked it up from I cannot imagine: it is an obscure track on an album of Christmas music by 60s group, The Spinners, about the Children of Israel (I think). I will have to find it and listen to it to lay this ear-worm to rest, but I don't suppose it ever made it onto CD let alone iTunes! What are the chances that my father still has the original vinyl album I first heard it from? Every chance, of course, where do you think I get my stash hoarding tendencies from - he never throws anything away! HB

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Helen's Ramblings

Well, Autumn, mellow mistiness, panic attacks about Christmas, all that. I’ve been having a deal of fun teaching various Improv Techniques, and we have a nice new pattern for you all (see below) to play with - as usual we will be utterly delighted if you send images of what you make..

And, now we can reveal Kittenopolis in all it’s Catly Glory.. You may know that Kate Percival, our esteemed and imaginative Exhibitions Officer, has been ill with cancer, having had a major rebuild at the hands of the NHS and proud displayer of the best set of bruises ever.. So, we conspired (at Festival of Quilts) to ask and solicit and collect and assemble a most delightful collection of Kitten blocks, and made her a (((((((hug))))))) quilt of great size and many buttons-for-eyes.. And here it is… Needless to say, the anticipation after posting this was terrific, and the reaction so gratifying.. Not least, her puddycats approved, too..

So, this month’s Free Pattern is for you to make your own small basket-of-kittens.. Happy sewing!HH

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KITTENOPOLIS: Finished Quilt!
buttins 2
Sewing button eyes

buttons 1
and more buttons eyes!
FREE PATTERN: Kittenopolis Block by Helen Butcher
CLICK HERE for a link to the PDF of this simple cat block pattern

Sticks & Stones

QUILT STORIES: Headline News

Sticks and Stones 1
by Judith Lynch

During January I was watching an episode of in which Victoria Findlay Wolf was demonstrating improvisational piecing. Most of my quilts have been traditional or contemporary in style, but this summer I decided to try improvising and explored just how narrow I could keep the pieces. I liked the result and decided to use fabric from the Makower range ‘Wrap it up’ set in white squares. I made about 30 blocks and then arranged 25 of them on my design wall, spending a few days re-arranging them until I decided upon the fade-out from top to bottom of the quilt. I added white borders and liked the result. This is fairly typical of the way that I work: doing a lot of designing in my head and experimenting on the design wall. I don’t do more than a rough sketch on paper before starting work.

I hadn’t intended to enter the FoQ competition this year but two days before the closing date for entries I changed my mind. The entry form asked for the quilt’s name and as the narrow pieces looked rather stick-like I named it ‘Sticks and Stones 1’, with the intention of a) free-machine quilting pebbles in some of the white blocks and b) making a series of similar quilts that would explore the theme of narrow improvised pieces. Making some samples to explore the quilting possibilities, I found that the pebble quilting didn’t work with the piecing so I abandoned that idea. Instead I found that echoing the curved edges of the pieces worked well.

I took a photo of the quilt and printed it off several times, then sketched some ideas of which way to place the quilting lines, deciding upon linking a maximum of three blocks in any one direction. I started by free-machine quilting in the ditch of all the pieces and then quilted from the end of the sticks in one block, across a plain block and linking to the sticks in the next block. I soon found that I was better off switching to a walking foot with a quilting bar to keep the echo rows spaced evenly. My machine is a Bernina 160 with 7.5” arm space, so I have a lot of manipulating to do every time I change direction. However, the quilting was finished in two and a half weeks, by doing some every day.

It needed a final alteration as the quilting rows that linked the ends of the sticks weren’t differentiated from the other quilting rows. I unpicked those lines of stitching and replaced them with pale aqua thread instead of white thread. One of the effects of entering a competition is that it makes me up my game. Every thread at the end of each line of stitching was threaded into the quilt instead of being backstitched and cut off. When it seemed complete, I went over it all with a magnifying lens and placed pins wherever I thought that the stitching wasn’t good enough, so I could unpick and replace it. The binding too, had to be sewn on twice until every element of the pattern was in line.

Another reason for entering a competition is getting a written critique from the judges. Our friends always appreciate our work, don’t they, but judges give us feedback on elements which we can improve. The other effect of entering a competition is the sheer exhilaration of receiving a phone call to say that you’ve won. Magic.

sewing machine?

SEWING MACHINES FOR BEGINNERS (and more advanced students!)

by Helen Howes NEW SERIES: PART 1 - Needles

Now, all the sewing machines ever made need a needle, and apart from some very early and unsuccessful attempts, almost all have a needle with an eye at the sharp end. It is said that Singer dreamed this, waking in a panic from a dream of being chased by fierce warriors with holes in their spear-points. Almost certainly apocryphal…

Needles are the cause of more irritation and grief than is needed.. When did you last change yours? It is recommended that they are used for no more than 8 hours of sewing before replacement, and it’s possible to bend or catch one in putting it in, so maybe after 2 minutes. I don’t often blunt mine (sew too fast) as I tend to break them, but I often look across a classroom and suggest a New Needle - “How can you tell?” is the plaintive cry - well, listen to the sound, if they “pop” they are past it..

Needle sizes are quite logical, if a little odd. There are several systems, and most packets will have at least a couple of alternate sizes marked for each type. Bigger numbers = bigger needles. So, for piecing cotton, you need a fine needle (12/80) and a thinner thread than for quilting (14/90). For mending your jeans (you don’t do that, right? Alterations are for Other People), maybe a 16/100. Match your thread to the work (for fine silk, a very fine thread and perhaps a 9/75 needle. For cotton piecing, perhaps a 50s cotton thread. For quilting you might use a more substantial thread so that it has a good “look” on the surface. As a very basic rule, if the needle is really hard to thread, go up a size, if really easy, go down one..

Types of Needles - The regular point (sometimes called “universal”) is good for most plain cloths, and I use these almost all the time. If you sew jersey fabrics, use a Ball Point needle, as these are less likely to cause little running holes. For embroidery you may like a needle with a bigger eye (Metallic), but these can be fragile. Sewing leather? Use the right needle, and don’t expect your machine to like it much. Then there are Denim, Microtex, assorted others which claim to have sharper points.. I’m not totally convinced, but your machine may like them. Buy a good brand (Schmetz, Organ, Groz-Beckert) and not from the supermarket...

Lots of old machines come to me with a Poker installed - my theory is this. You buy a pack of Mixed Sizes. You start by using the 14/90s, as they are easy to thread and fairly suitable. Then the 12/80s, as they are harder to thread but still pretty good to sew with. Then the remaining 16/100 gets put in, never breaks, and eventually starts to make huge holes in the cloth..Oh, dear.. One lady rang to request “one needle” as she had just broken her 47-year-old last one.. I sent 5. Later, she rang again “It sews ever so much better with the new needle"

Treat yourself, have a new needle today… (and another tomorrow)

Siblings Together Sept 17
September's finished quilt for SIBLINGS TOGETHER


So pleased to get this picture from Jennifer of the results of the first Sew Bee HH and I have been involved in for this very worth cause. This was such a simple block, very enjoyable to make. Jennifer has received so many blocks there are enough to make another quilt too! If you would like to get involved, please click the link below

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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