Char’s quilt

29 11 2012

When I was in Memphis for a conference in March this year, I gave my friend Sue a pink quilt as she’d been on at me about making her one after seeing the pink quilt I made for my Mum for her 80th birthday. In the room at the time were my other best buddies, Char (from near Boston) and Dave (from near San Diego).

I already had a quilt planned for Dave — it was the art quilt of the beach at Port Douglas that I’d started the week before at the workshop in Texas, which I gave to him when he was in Australia and came and stayed with us last month. And Char had already been the recipient of my first art quilt, my dragonfly quilt. But I could see that Char wanted her own quilt 😉 So I asked her what colours she’d like if I made her a quilt too — she said ‘purple’.

When I got back home, I started her quilt using purple batiks from my stash, and a touch of green batiks as well. I used the ‘Ring around’ pattern from Four Paws Quilting.

I ended up with some offcuts that I sewed together into bands and used to help create a large piece of backing fabric. The green Jinny Beyer fabric I had wasn’t enough for the full backing and it was only 44″ wide, so I had to sew it together anyway. Adding the bands of offcuts hides the fact that I didn’t have enough fabric 😉 and adds visual interest to the back.

As Char lives near Boston, I used a pure wool batting for warmth. For the quilting, I did an all-over feather pattern using King Tut cottons for the top thread (‘Jewel of the Nile’) and in the bobbin (‘Oasis’).

I was going to give the quilt to Char next March, assuming we were both going to attend the conference as we have done for the past few years. But there have been changes made to the conference and she won’t be going. So I bundled it up and mailed it to her. She got it a few days ago, which means I can blog about it now 😉

Here’s Char’s Quilt (click on a photo to view it larger):

Community Quilt 33

25 11 2012

A quilt entirely made of scrappy strips…. And fabric scraps from many of the past five or more decades too, I think! I suspect that some of these fabrics were from the 1940s or 50s. Others were definitely from the 60s and 70s, while still others were likely from the 80s and 90s. I’m not sure there were many/any fabrics in this quilt top that were more recent than the 1990s!

As an example, the yellow, blue and pink fabric strip in this photo is likely a fabric from the 40s or 50s, and the others surrounding it are probably from the 60s or 70s, while the really bright crocodile/hippo one is likely from the 80s or 90s (click on a photo to see it larger):

And there was no order to how these strips were put together — lights were with other lights, or mediums, or darks…; colours were placed at random; and fabric styles were also random. Viewed as a whole, this quilt is actually quite nice, but up close it didn’t do much for me 😉

How to quilt it? I was tempted to take the easy way out and do any all-over design like open headbands or a large meandering stipple. But then I wondered how I’d tackle the black border. So I decided to emphasise the strips.

I started from approximately the middle and using my Line Tamer ruler I stitched out to the edge, stitching in the ditch as far as possible (some strips were wonky, so I did the best I could). When I got to the edge of the strips, I lined up the ruler with the black border’s seam to make sure I stitched out ot the edge perpendicular to the seam. I repeated this for each seam for some 10 or so strips. I then turned the quilt around and ditch stitched the other side of those stitching lines from the middle out.

Then I went back to the middle and started the strips on the other side of the centre, stitching from the middle about halfway along the length of a strip out to the edge of the border. Again, I did about 10 or so strips, then turned the quilt around and did the opposite side of those half-done stitching lines.

And kept on until I reached the top and bottom edges of the quilt.

Then I came back and started again in the middle, this time stitching a centre line between each of the stitching lines I’d already created. This resulted in a parallel stitching line about every 1/2 to 3/4 inch apart.

The effect I was looking for was a ‘modern quilt‘ look. Many ‘modern quilts’ that I’ve seen in magazines and on the internet use a lot of parallel straight stitching and very geometric squares, rectangles, etc. — I thought parallel stitching it would be an interesting effect with these old fabrics.

I was pleased with the final result. When the stitching only followed the seams, there was something missing. Adding the lines of stitching between the seams fixed that. I was pleased with how it turned out.

Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Harmony variegated pastels — yellow, pink, blue, and green (40 wt cotton; colour ‘Spring’ #14062)
  • Bobbin: charcoal Wonderfil Deco-Bob (80 wt; colour DB 122)


2012 FMQ Challenge: November

25 11 2012

I left this month’s FMQ Challenge piece pretty late! I’m not very good at drawing spirals evenly… even when I try to follow the lines of the templates provided by Sarah Vedeler. I’m also not very good at doing runs of them ‘from scratch’ on the machine. However, when I have a piece to do that would suit a spiral, I’m much better 😉

In fact, I did several spirals in one of my community quilts before I created my practice piece — and I know I did a much better job on the quilt than I did on my practice piece.

Anyhow, here are some examples I did this weekend to meet the November FMQ Challenge.

In this first one, I did spirals in the squares and triangles, using a flowing line to join them. I finished off this block with a BIG spiral in the centre:

In the next block, I did something similar to the first block, but this time just stitching spirals in the cream squares and the centre:

In this last block, I only stitch a spiral in the centre of the block:

And here’s my practice piece — there’s a long way to go before I get these nice and even! I marked the 2″ and 1″ lines, but didn’t mark squares for each spiral to occupy:

Community Quilt 32

25 11 2012

This was a very detailed applique quilt — someone had spent many hours making it. And I spent many hours quilting it! (I suspect about 10 hours in total).

I started with the centerpiece by echo quilting the words, then I used tight McTavishing to fill in the rest of the background of this centre, thus ‘popping’ the appliqued flowers (click on a photo to view it larger)

I stippled the background of the remainder of the applique sections, with a tight small stippling stitch, again to ‘pop’ the appliqued elements.

For the star blocks, I used a few different elements. I wanted to try out the spiral design from the November Free Motion Quilting Challenge, so there are quite a few spirals in these star blocks 😉

I stitched all the cream areas with Superior Threads’ King Tut “Papyrus” (colour 972), and used the same bobbin throughout (Deco Bob DB 115).

I decided not to quilt the sashing as there was already a lot of quilting on this quilt. However, the borders needed to be stablised, so I quilted a continuous run of spirals in them using Isacord thread (colour 4133). However, I didn’t take a photo as these spirals were almost impossible to see against the teal floral fabric.

The finished quilt:


Community Quilt 31

25 11 2012

This was just a small (42 x 42 inch) quilt. It was pretty busy with all those pinwheels, so I decided to follow the straight lines and extend them through the pinwheels. That left some quite large empty blue squares, so I did a freehand diamond spiral in them.

I can’t remember what threads I used for this one! But I think it was a plain mid-to-dark blue for all the stitching on the top of the quilt. And yes, I used a ruler for all those straight lines — my favourite Line Tamer ruler.

Click on a photo to view it larger.


Changing the light ring on the Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen

19 11 2012

I wrote these instructions for me, in case I ever have to do this again.


  • I’m not a HQ dealer or service person — just a user of their Sweet Sixteen quilting machine. So while these instructions suit ME and MY machine, if you follow them on your own machine, you do so AT YOUR OWN RISK.
  • Only do this if you have explicit permission to do so from your dealer and/or Handi Quilter, as you may void your warranty.
  • This is a FIDDLY procedure, so if you live reasonably close to your dealer, get your dealer to do this for you as they have all the specialist tools for the job, and will have experience in doing it. The only reason I did it myself was that it’s a 3+ hour round trip to my dealer.
  • If you do it yourself, you may find it easier to access the relevant parts of the machine if you take it out of the table and CAREFULLY lay it down on its side or its back end. I did it with the machine in situ — i.e. in the table — and found it very awkward to get to all the places. Update: Another light ring went… This time I replaced it by lying the machine on its side with the left side uppermost. It was much easier to change out the light ring than doing it in situ. Further update: Here’s a photo of how my dealer does it — she lays the machine on its back:
  • If your machine is still in its warranty period, you may find that the replacement light ring is at no cost. However, you may incur labour charges, depending on where you live.

You will need:

  • a replacement Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen light ring (not available commercially, as far as I know — only available from your dealer or perhaps direct from HQ)
  • one small Philips head screwdriver, preferably with a magnetised head (the screwdrivers that come in a small pack for computers/electronics are ideal)
  • several types of tweezers; needle-nose tweezers (like surgical tweezers) are ideal
  • about 15 to 30 minutes of spare time
  • lots of patience and the ability to sit/squat on the floor for several minutes at a time and do things by touch (if you don’t take the machine out of the table)

First things first — this is what the original light ring looks like (front and back views); the red arrows indicate the screw holes and the green arrow shows the connector. (NOTE: As at May 2013, Handi Quilter source their light rings from a different manufacturer. These newer light rings look slightly different to the pictures below, but the screw holes, connector pieces, and these instructions remain the same.)

Front view of light ring

Back view of light ring

To swap out a faulty light ring with a new one (these instructions assume you’re changing the light ring with the machine in the table):

  1. TURN OFF YOUR MACHINE and move your chair out of the way.
  2. Remove the needle.
  3. Sit on the floor where your chair normally goes. (If you’re lying the machine on its side or back, you don’t have to do this, obviously.)
  4. Using the small Philips head screwdriver, unscrew the two small screws on each side of the light ring.

    Side screws (left and right arrows) and front and back screws

  5. Now unscrew the two small screws at the front and back of the light ring. These are longer screws and hold the plastic cover in place. The back one is particularly awkward to get to if the machine is in the table — you’ll have to find it and unscrew it by feel alone as you can’t see it.
  6. When you unscrew the last screw, the plastic housing over the light ring and the light ring will drop a little as there’s almost nothing to hold it up. However, it’s still connected to the machine, so DO NOT try to pull it down.

    The loosened light ring and plastic housing

  7. Next, disconnect the connector at the back left of the light ring. Again, this is very fiddly as the connector is very small and the wires that connect to it are VERY short. Use tweezers to grab the top part of the connector and ‘unclick’ it from the housing in the light ring. Be careful that you don’t put any downward pressure on the connector wires/piece as you don’t want to damage these wires.

    Green arrow points to the connector wires

  8. Once the connector has been disconnected, gently lower the plastic housing and light ring to the table. You can see how short those wires are and how small the connector piece is!

    Connector at rear of foot/needle housing

  9. Please check that the faulty light ring’s plastic connector housing is still attached to the light ring. When I did my second change out, the connector piece on the light ring remained attached to the connector on the machine and so I couldn’t reinsert it into the new light ring with that piece still attached. So, look at the light ring that you’ve taken off and make sure that the little plastic connector housing is still attached to it (see the picture of the back view of the light ring before the start of these steps–the plastic connector housing is arrowed in green). If it isn’t attached to the light ring, use tweezers to pull it off the connector on the machine and put it back on the faulty light ring, making sure the pins go in the same direction as those on the new light ring.
  10. You probably can’t get the faulty light ring out from under the foot, so you get your fingers underneath the foot and lift it a tad. Once lifted, slide the faulty light ring out and slide the new one in, leaving the plastic housing where it is. Make sure you put in the new one, not the old one!
  11. Make sure the replacement light ring is facing the correct way — lights facing down and the connector at the back left when looking at the machine from the front. Slot the light ring into the plastic housing and screw in the two side screws (these are the short ones) to connect it to the housing.

    Screw the side screws into the light ring to secure it to the plastic housing

  12. Now here comes the REALLY tricky/fiddly/awkward bit. Lift the plastic housing up almost to where it normally goes. Using tweezers, grab the loose connector piece and slot it into the connector on the light ring (you may have to reach from the right behind the foot/needle housing and go around the back to grab the loose connector piece). Use the tweezers to push it in. Did I say this was fiddly? If you have someone else to hold the plastic housing you may find it easier to connect the light ring to the machine. But there’s no getting away from this step being the most difficult and awkward.
  13. Once the connector is connected, test it before putting the remaining screws back in. Turn on your machine and see if the light comes on as it should. If it does, congratulations — you got the connector properly connected! (NOTE: If the light doesn’t come on, first check that it’s turned on in the control panel — you may well have turned it off when the lights were flickering. Touch More then Options and then the icon for the lit light bulb.) If it still doesn’t come on, the connector hasn’t connected properly so repeat the previous step.
  14. Turn the machine off again and screw in the remaining screws (front and back). Screw in the front one first. The back one is the hardest to screw in as you can’t see what you’re doing and will have to go by touch alone.
  15. And you’re done! Put your needle back in, turn on your machine, and off you go.

‘Open headband’ quilting motif

17 11 2012

I don’t know where I learned to do this quilting motif that I call ‘open headband’ — perhaps Leah Day’s Free Motion Quilting Project, or maybe Diane Gaudynski’s excellent book on free motion quilting, or perhaps Helen Godden’s DVD, or maybe my own variation of techniques learned from all three. Anyhow, I use it often and find it a very relaxing motif that can be quilted large or small and that fits into all sorts of places.

Several people have asked me to share how I do it, so today I got a piece of paper and a Sharpie and took some (very amateur) photos of how the motif goes. I realised I’m much better on the Sweet Sixteen than I am with my drawing! But hopefully this will help you get started.

General tips:

  • Start this motif near the centre of the quilt and move out in an overall circular direction — this flattens out any wonkiness and pushes puckers out to the edge. Don’t be tempted to fill a quarter of the quilt, then move to another quarter — if the quilt is even slightly wonky, you may end up with puckers and pleats in the middle of the quilt.
  • While I mostly do three hops around the arc, sometimes I do four so that I don’t end up with a long streamer of these motifs all going in one direction across the quilt. The fourth hop allows me to go off in a different direction, thus covering the quilt in an apparent random fashion.
  • Use the ‘needle down’ position on your machine. If you have to stop in the middle of an arc or at a point, then you’ll be able to start again without being a stitch or two ‘out’.

So here are my photos with some instructions.

Start by stitching a semi-circle/arc near the centre of the quilt (the arrow shows the direction I use, but go in whatever direction feels comfortable to you):

At the end of the arc, stitch another arc back towards your starting point, but not quite coming even with it. Echo the general semi-circle shape, but don’t try to echo at a specific distance from the original arc (my drawing below shows a VERY uneven second arc!):

Now bounce back with a third arc extending from the end of the second arc. Again, you’re following the arc’s general shape, but you’re NOT trying to get an even distance from it:

You’ve now done what I call ‘three hops’ — the arc and two echo lines. Next, you create a new ‘headband’ by starting a new arc at an angle off from the end of the third arc; I try to put this arc next to the earlier one so that I don’t end up with awkward gaps later — in other words, I fill the empty spaces as I go:

After creating the second arc, stitch two more echoing arcs around it, just like you did for the first one:

At the end of the third echo, bounce out in a different direction to create another small arc and echo it just like the previous two:

To stop you going off in an overall diagonal, this time do a fourth echo (not the three you’ve done previously):

At the end of the fourth echo, bounce out in a different direction to create another small arc and echo it just like you’ve done with the others. You should only need three bounces this time, though there’s no hard and fast rule:

Create the next arc off the end of the third echo point, and keep going creating arcs and three or four echoes until you’ve filled the entire area or the whole quilt!

And here’s an example of it finished (you can see that I’m much more even on the machine than with a pen!):

Community Quilt 30

17 11 2012

Like quilt #29, this one was also ‘busy’ but with nowhere near so many colours as that other quilt, and nowhere near as big either!

Again, I decided to do a simple all-over motif, this time a large meandering stipple. I left the borders free, then after I’d done the stippling, I decided to quilt some of my favourite bird feathers in them.

I used the same thread set-up as that for quilt #29. As with that quilt, the thread blended beautifully with all the colours in the quilt and in the brown borders. I like the effect the variegated thread has on the feathers. (I like the rhythm of these feathers so much that I was motoring along at 70% speed when I was doing them 😉

Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Harmony (‘Pistachio’ — colour 14066; 40 wt? cotton)
  • Bobbin: Wonderful Deco-Bob (80 wt, colour DB 115)

Click on a photo to view it larger.



Community Quilt 29

17 11 2012

This is the biggest quilt I think I’ve quilted on my Sweet Sixteen, so I had both wings of the table extended, and even then the quilt wanted to drop off the edges at times.

It was such a busy quilt and with heaps of colours (someone emptied her scrap bin?) in the nine-patch squares that I decided to do a simple all-over motif. And guess what? I went back to my favourite ‘open headband‘ again 😉

I used a thread I have only used once before, a variegated cotton in tans, greens, and golds. The thread blended beautifully with all the colours in the quilt, but boy, it leaves a LOT of lint and fluff, including in the top tension disks. I had to clean the machine’s tension disks, needle area, and bobbin case regularly with this thread. It snapped a couple of times, but not enough to make me not want to use it.

Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Harmony (‘Pistachio’ — colour 14066; 40 wt? cotton)
  • Bobbin: Wonderful Deco-Bob (80 wt, colour DB 115)

Click on a photo to view it larger.


Good customer service

15 11 2012

After our last toaster nearly blew up the house (!), I bought a Sunbeam 4-slice toaster (‘Toastum’ model 6410) about 14 months ago from Harvey Normans for about $70 (not the cheapest toaster, but not the most expensive either). Sunbeam has always been a reputable brand, in my eyes, but these days everything seems to be made in China or somewhere where labour is cheap so I’m not sure that brand reputation means all that much anymore.

I’ve only used the toaster maybe once a week, and my husband doesn’t use it at all — I’m the only one who’s ever used it. So perhaps it has toasted bread/naan bread maybe 50 or so times. I learnt early on that it had to be plugged into the power and the power turned on before the handle would go down and engage. Even then, sometimes the handle is tricky and I have to press it down hard a couple of times to get it to stay down (see someone else’s rant about this toaster’s handle here:!topic/melb.general/LZMyj8pdXq4 and other reviews here:

Well, after about 50 uses, the handle snapped off the other day! That is, the plastic handle piece that goes over the metal lever. This handle piece is ‘painted’ the same as the stainless steel of the toaster, so I had assumed it was also metal, but no — it’s plastic! And it snapped right off. I now have a useless toaster.

I checked the warranty, and guess what? It’s only for 12 months, and this happened about 14 months after purchase. I figured I’d at least call the Sunbeam support line to see what I could do, and whether taking it back to Harvey Normans would be an option. Well, I got such a surprise!

I told the support guy what model toaster and that the handle had snapped off. And he immediately said he’d send me out a replacement and asked me for my postal address! No questions about how it happened, no discussion of the toaster being out of warranty, nothing.

So either this is a known issue for Sunbeam or else they are aware that social media and internet reviews can really damage their reputation. Whatever. I just know that I was impressed with the helpful and ‘no questions asked’ response I got from their customer support person. Well done, Sunbeam!

Would I buy another Sunbeam toaster? Maybe. And that decision would mostly be based on this interaction I just had with them as I think the toaster I have is average at best.

It’s always difficult with an appliance like this as you can’t test it out first. Toasters range from cheap $10 jobs to $250 or more, so you really don’t know whether you’ll like it until you get it home and actually use it. Reputation becomes quite important — we purchased a Fisher and Paykel washing machine purely based on the reputation and experience we’d had with all our other F&P appliances, including our previous 20-year-old washing machine. But I don’t think F&P make toasters 😉