Stop foot pedal scooting across the floor

1 01 2017

I have lovely hardwood floors in my house. But they are a darned nuisance for my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen’s foot pedal — it wants to slip further and further away from me as I put pressure on it. I tried putting that non-slip stuff underneath it (you know — that slightly tacky plastic mesh stuff you put under rugs or in drawers to stop things sliding around). It worked to a point, but eventually the foot pedal would creep away. I needed to come up with a better solution…

On one of the forums, someone had suggested putting Velcro dots under the foot pedal if you’re on carpet. Well, my machine isn’t on carpet, but that got me thinking… Perhaps Velcro dots would work with something else that doesn’t slip on wooden floors? Hmmmm….

Something like an old neoprene mouse mat, perhaps? That’s neoprene on the top and bottom, not the newer mouse mats that have a slippery top surface.

So I tried it, and I’m here to report that with the combination of Velcro dots on the feet on the foot pedal AND a neoprene mouse mat, my foot pedal no longer slides or creeps away from me. I call that a win!

I haven’t tried this on tile, but I expect it would work similarly – worth a try, anyway.

Velcro dots stuck to the base of the foot controller

Velcro dots stuck to the base of the foot controller

Foot controller with Velcro feet sticks to the neoprene mat, which sticks to the wooden floor

Foot controller with Velcro feet sticks to the neoprene mat, which sticks to the wooden floor

Easy cathedral windows for hexagons

4 08 2015

I modified my method for quilting easy cathedral windows (suitable for squares, rectangles, or grids) to work with hexagons (see Community Quilt 220).

The photo below shows the stitching order — the red lines (1 to 13) show the first row of stitching, where you start with one of the vertical arcs near the adjoining seam, then do two arcing hops followed by a completed arc up (or down, as in the photo) the seam, followed by two more arcs, then a vertical one and so on until the end. Then come back along the other edge with more arc hops all the way back to the beginning (the purple lines numbered 14 to 19). (Note: If you’re doing a complete circle of hexagons like I was in Community Quilt 220, then numbers 14 to 19 will go in the other direction to complete the ‘loop’.)




Searching a Yahoo! Group

14 02 2015

These instructions are mostly for members of a specific Yahoo! Group I belong to, but the general principles should apply to searching all Yahoo! Groups.

Often, newbies will ask questions that others have covered some days, weeks, months, or even years ago. We were all newbies once and we all needed help at various stages, but when you’ve been on any sort of group for a while, you see the same questions seemingly a million times, so you tune out and tend not to answer — or you leave the group.

So here are some instructions for searching a Yahoo! Group BEFORE you ask a question, just to see if it’s been covered before and if there are some pearls of wisdom that have already been shared by other members.

  1. Open your Group’s page in a web browser. If you get your Group’s messages via email, the quickest way to do that is to click the link to View Your Group at the bottom of each email from the Group. (Note: Email programs may differ in how they display this link — the screen shot below is from Outlook 2010)
  2. If asked to do so, log in to your Yahoo! Group.
  3. On your Groups’ home page, there’s a search box (it has ‘Search Conversations’ in it) near the top of the screen. Type your search word or phrase into that search box.
  4. Click Search Groups.
  5. Your results will display, telling you how many results in total, and showing the latest message first.
  6. If you want to narrow the search results (advisable if there are too many to deal with), click Advanced Search.
  7. Complete some of the details on the Advanced Search form, then click Search.
  8. Your result set will be much smaller.

In the screen shots above, I first searched for tension and got some 2500 results, then I clicked Advanced Search, added my own name as the Author and tension as a word I wanted to find in any Message I’d sent to the Group. This time the search revealed 119 results — a much more manageable number.

Another option is to browse messages by month, which is very handy if you go ‘no mail’ for a period of time (such as when you go on vacation). The links for messages by month are at the bottom of the home page for your Yahoo! Group.


Quilting an 8-petaled flower

27 01 2015

In a recent Community Quilt (blog post to come), I stitched heaps of 8-petaled flowers in the centre of each on-point block. I took some photos and with some (very) rudimentary computer drawing skills, I’ve tried to describe how I stitched it (I still don’t have the hang of videoing anything!! and my computer-drawn lines leave a lot to be desired…)

Basically, you start in the centre, loop out to a corner, then back down through the centre to the opposite corner in a fat-topped figure eight fashion (let’s assume you do the first one vertically), then scoot back through the centre and make another figure eight going on the other plane (e.g. horizontally). You don’t stop and start for the entire flower, just cross over in the centre point.

After making your two big figure eights, you swing back to the centre and make two smaller and narrower figure eights to fill in the gaps between the large one.

Then you swing back to the centre again and echo stitch inside the fat figure eights so that there’s a double line for them. And that’s it.

It’s certainly much easier to do than to describe! Hopefully the pictures and the diagram below will help.

This is what the finished flower looks like:


And this is how I got there. First, start in the centre and loop out to a corner, swinging back to the centre.


Next, finish the bottom of that figure eight.


When you get back to the centre, keep stitching and loop out to the horizontal plane, doing another figure eight to the left….


…and then to the right (or whatever feels most comfortable for you).


Swing back through the centre again, and this time stitch a smaller, narrower petal in between two of the large loops.


Swing through the centre again and repeat on the opposite side.


Next time you come back through the centre, swoop to the left to make another skinny loop, and repeat on its opposite side. (no photos for this figure eight — however, you can see the stitching in the photo below)

After completing all eight petals of your flower, add some extra oomph to the large petals by echo stitching about 1/8 to 1/4  inch inside each one — you don’t have to be precise!

Swoop back down inside one of the large petals and echo stitch it from the centre, around the loop, and back to the centre.


Keep on stitching through and echo stitch the opposite fat petal.


Swoop back through the centre and echo stitch inside the last two petals, forming yet another figure eight through the centre of the design. Again, unless you are using plain fabric, you don’t have to be perfectly precise with where your centres cross — the crossing point will get lost in the fabric design.



And you’re done! Here it is all stitched out:


And below is a really basic drawing of the stitching lines — each colour is another figure eight loop/infinity symbol, with all crossovers occurring in the centre of the block.


Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen: Needle Sensor Failure

19 01 2015

Occasionally you might get this message on your machine. Stop stitching immediately and investigate the cause.

In my experience, it’s almost always caused by something caught in the bobbin area — a piece of thread (it can be TINY), or a broken needle tip.

If you broke a needle, have you found the needle tip? It might be jammed inside the bobbin area. Mine was and my machine wouldn’t work (see I had to take it back to the dealer for them to get the tip out and to reset the timing. A broken needle jammed into the bobbin case invariably throws out the timing, which means your stitches may not form correctly even if you can get the tip out and the ‘needle sensor failure’ message goes away.

However, the most common reason I’ve found for the ‘needle sensor failure’ message is that some thread is caught inside the bobbin area, which is stopping the bobbin mechanism from moving.  If it’s thread, try these:

  1. Turn off your machine and turn it back on again – do you still get ‘needle sensor failure’? If yes, go to the next step; if not, try stitching again but be aware that if you get badly formed stitches (or no stitches), your timing is likely out and you’ll have to take your machine to a technician.
  2. Remove the needle plate and dust out any lint. Look for and remove any thread caught in the bobbin area.
  3. Remove your bobbin and bobbin case. Again, look for and remove any thread caught in the bobbin area.
  4. Slowly turn the handwheel at the back of the machine while looking down into the bobbin area – you’re looking for any piece of thread that might be stuck in there. If the handwheel is jammed, apply some pressure but don’t force it – if you can’t turn it at all, take your machine to the technician.
  5. Assuming you can turn the handwheel, turn it back and forth (slowly) looking for anything caught in the bobbin area mechanism. If you see any thread, remove it with tweezers.
  6. Turn the machine off, then back on again, replace the bobbin/bobbin case, and try to stitch. If you still have ‘needle sensor failure’, take your machine to your technician.

Handi Quilt Sweet Sixteen: Using the couching foot

3 08 2014

I purchased the conversion kit and couching foot kit for my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen a few weeks back, and had my first ‘play’ while on my annual quilt retreat with the girls a month ago. Life has sort of got in the way since then, so today was my first time back playing with the couching foot.

In the interim I’d bought some cheap yarn from Spotlight, so it was time to try it out.

First, here’s a video from Handi Quilter on using the couching foot. The instructions for starting off are around the 5-minute mark and again at the 8-minute and 10-minute marks. However, the instructions give you NO information on how to tie off/bury the yarn at the beginning/end of your stitching.

Here’s my first practice piece with both a variegated yarn and a gold metallic yarn. I was going too fast initially and thus my yarn wasn’t always caught by my needle — once I slowed down (25% speed or less), I had no trouble. I used the middle couching foot (2 mm, I think)


After I’d finished that piece, I decided to do something on a spare quilt sandwich I had in a navy linen-like fabric. I’d seen an image of a boomerang and thought it would quilt well, so I did all the inner couching with the variegated yarn, and the outer edge with the gold metallic yarn. Some practice still required!









It all looked a bit plain, so I filled in the inner part of the boomerang with a scribble stitch just using the brown variegated thread I had in the needle for the couching. Then I made up some elongated curved lines and spirals for the rest of the small sandwich, emulating the spiral pattern inside the boomerang.






It was fun! I’m not sure how much I’ll use it, but it’s good to know how. However, I still have to find a quick and easy way of tieing off at the beginning/end without doing it by hand, and without the cut ends of the yarn fraying.

More: If you are a member of, then Helen Godden has a great 49-minute video on using the couching foot, including information on how she stops and starts and finishes off the ends. This video is available from:


8-pointed wonky star quilting motif

28 07 2014

Several people have asked me how I stitch the wonky 8-pointed star shape as shown in these quilts:

It’s really very easy — you go from the middle of one side to its opposite corner, then to the opposite middle, then the opposite corner etc. until you get back to the beginning. It’s easier to explain in a simple diagram!

You can start at any mid point or corner point — in this diagram I’ve started at a mid point. Follow the arrows and the numbers (1 to 8) to create your own 8-pointed slightly wonky star!



Quilting makes the quilt

22 06 2014

Because I was making two baby quilts basically the same, I decided to take some photos to show how quilting makes the quilt and brings it to life.

A bit of background for quilting newbies…

While the term ‘quilting’ covers the entire process of making a quilt, it also refers specifically to the stitching used to secure the three layers together (the quilt top, the batting, and the backing fabric). This stitching can be very simple (straight lines in the seam lines — also known as ‘stitching in the ditch’ or SID), or can be very elaborate, with lots of stitching motifs or patterns enhancing the design of the quilt top and/or its fabric.

Quilting can be done ‘free motion’ (no markings, no rulers, no pattern to follow except what’s in your head or how you guide the fabric under the needle — think of doodling with the needle being a static pen and the fabric sandwich being the paper that you move under the pen… try it with a real pen and paper to see how hard it is!), or can be done using markings, rulers, and other tools. I reckon life’s to short to mark quilts 😉 so I prefer free motion quilting (FMQ), which means not all my lines are perfectly straight, not all my circles are perfect circles etc. I’m looking for an overall ‘feel’, not perfection, so I’m OK with slightly wonky lines — in fact, in some quilts I’ve deliberately stitched wonky lines for effect (see this one:

Anyhow, back to the baby quilts…

In this first photo, I haven’t done any stitching to hold the layers together — I’ve only joined (basted) the layers together with pins, ready for stitching. If I only did SID, then those wrinkles and puffiness would remain with the quilt forever. You could iron them out to a degree, but essentially, what you see is what you’ll get once the quilt is finished. It doesn’t have a lot of ‘life’, in my opinion.


In the next photo (below), I’ve quilted the the three layers together quite densely, using a free motion spiral motif, with joining long U shapes (I was trying to emulate the hot sun on the African plains). The wrinkles and puffiness have been stitched out. While this quilting is quite dense (there’s not much more than a quarter inch gap between each stitching line), this quilt should hold up well to many years of laundering as the chance of the layers separating is pretty slim. You can still see puffiness in the cream band at the top — I deliberately didn’t quilt this area.


This final photo (below) shows both quilts on the line — the one on the left has no quilting, while the one on the right is quilted and is now ready for trimming and binding.


In my opinion, quilting makes the quilt, and brings it to life.

Handi Quilt Sweet Sixteen: Using bobbin thread as the top thread: Hack #2

7 06 2014

Some time back I needed to use some thread I only had wound on a bobbin as the top thread in my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen. As the spool rods are too fat for the bobbins, I came up with a dodgy system using painters tape and a paintbrush. Since I posted that hack, I’ve read about another person’s method, using what we used to call ‘pipe cleaners’ in Australia but that I understand are called ‘chenille sticks’ in the US.

So I tried it and it works fine for a bobbin spool. However, I didn’t have as much luck with a normal spool of thread as it ended up wrapping itself into the chenille bit and snapping. That’s probably more user error than it is the fault of the ‘design’!

Here’s my setup; the bobbin thread comes off from underneath the bobbin, not over the top — I think that’s where I went wrong with the other spool of thread I tried with this:


And no, the bear doesn’t come with the machine 😉 He was a gift from one of my quilting buddies.

Lint. The reason I don’t like cotton thread.

3 05 2014

Some of my favourite threads to use in my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen are the trilobal polyesters, specifically Isacord and Fil-tec’s Glide thread. Why? They run through my machine like a hot knife through butter, rarely shred or break, and leave very little lint to gum up the bobbin case, the bobbin area, the tension disks, or the thread path. And thus they are less likely to throw the timing on my machine out, or cause the top or bottom thread to gain or lose tension while I’m in the middle of quilting. However, in my experience, cotton thread leaves a LOT of lint, and it can gum up your machine pretty bad and very quickly, potentially causing all sorts of problems.

Some people swear by cotton thread and won’t use anything else to quilt with, but I’m not in that school. Some also believe that if you have a cotton quilt, then you HAVE to use cotton thread. I’m not in that school either. (And if you want evidence why that ‘belief’ is a fallacy, go to Superior Threads website and take a look at the thread videos by Bob Purcell [Dr Bob]:

I quilted my most recent community quilt with cotton thread as it was the thread with the colour that best matched quilt top. And I had all sorts of tension issues at various times; ALL were related to the accumulated lint from the cotton thread. I had to clean the machine at least five times while I quilted this quilt.

Here are some photos I took of the lint prior to one of these cleaning sessions, with some advice on what bits I cleaned and how.


I try to clean and brush from the top down, so that any bits of lint and fluff that come off the top areas get swept up when I do the lower areas. I start with the tension disks. Although the thread is in in this photo, I usually remove the thread, loosen the tension disks as far as possible, then give the disks a good brush — and a short sharp blow with my breath (compressed air would work too). This picture doesn’t show a lot of fluff, but one of the cleaning sessions I did earlier had this area heavily coated in fluff.


Next, I brush up under the metal housing where the lights are, then down the two shafts, around the needle screw, the needle, and the foot. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of lint on these areas, but you’ll be surprised how much comes out with a good brushing.


Now I pull out the bobbin. Note the fluff at the opening. What you can’t see is the flattened gunk behind the spring where the thread comes out.


Another view of the lint inside the bobbin case as seen through the opening.



I remove the bobbin (and blow off any lint on the bobbin), then slide an old pin in the small gap between the spring and the case (NOTE: A business card works really well too and is less likely to scratch). Jiggle the pin (corner of a business card) around in there and slide it all the way to the right to get out any squashed gunk. You might also have to put the pin inside the bobbin case and run it up the slit as there may be some lint stuck in there too, and that’s bad as it WILL affect your bobbin’s tension.




View of the small gap where I slide the pin. After cleaning the gap, I brush out the inside of the bobbin case to get rid of the all the accumulated fluff in there.


Next, I tackle the area around the bobbin housing. Look at all that nasty lint! I took this photo less than an hour after the previous cleaning. I give the bobbin housing area a good brush from underneath to remove what I can.



Because there was so much lint/fluff below, there’s likely to be even more inside the bobbin housing area. So remove the needle plate and brush out any visible gunk.


Gunk seen from above that brushing out from underneath didn’t get. I usually single press the presser foot a couple of times to turn the bobbin housing and get any more that’s hiding underneath.


The brush gets pretty gunky too, so remove as much as you can by hand.



However, every so often you’ll have to clean the brush so that all the accumulated gunk doesn’t prevent the brush from doing its job. I run a pin up from the bottom to the top several times to get out the embedded gunk.

You can see why I don’t like quilting with cotton!

See also: