Saturday, 18 March 2017

Sewing Machine Needles - What a conundrum!

Whenever I do sewing machine shows on Create and Craft, I come home to a slew of queries about certain aspects, like "what is BobbinFill" or "what feet can I get for my new machine", so I find the best thing to do is write a blog post! This week's big question was about sewing machine needles, and what the numbers and colours mean! Once you have taken the needle out of the packet, how do you know what type it is, or what it is for? Where the clue is in the colours on the needle!

The first thing that you may notice on a sewing machine needle is that there are coloured bands on the needle shank. This means that once you have removed the needle from the packet you will still know what it's for!
The top band represents the needle type:
Needle Band
  • Universal (All purpose for wovens & knits) - No colour
  • Embroidery needle (embroidery threads) - Red
  • Quilting Needle (multiple layers of fabric) - Green
  • Microfibre Needle (Woven Fibres)- Purple
  • Stretch Needle (Elastic Fabrics) - Yellow
  • Ballpoint (Knitted fabrics) - Orange
  • Jeans Needle (Denim) - Blue
  • Leather Needle (for leather and vinyl fabrics) - Brown
  • Topstitching (Exposed Stitching) - Light Green
  • Metallic Needle (metallic thread) - Pink
Some specialist needles don't have colours on them because there is no need - you can tell what they are by looking i.e twin needles, winged (hemstitch) needles or twin eyed needles. 
The lower band shows the needle size:
  • Size 60/8: Light green
  • Size 65/9: White
  • Size 70/10: Green
  • Size 75/11: Pink
  • Size 80/12: Orange
  • Size 90/14: Blue
  • Size 100/16: Purple
  • Size 110/18: Yellow
  • Size 120/19: Brown
  • Size 125/20: Black
  • Size 130/21: Red
Not all needles are available in all sizes. So what do the sizes mean?The Metric system for sizing needles runs from 60 -110, while the American system is number 8 to 18. Most makes show both numbers, and the smaller the number the finer the needle. The larger the number, the thicker the needle will be.

There is a very useful guide available from Schmetz  here with more details about needles, and it's a very interesting read. Generally any needle should fit any machine. They have a flat back on the shank (the top part of the needle) so that it will only slot into your machine one way. You can't fit it backwards unless you REALLY try! (Don't do that!!!!)

So I hope that answers some of your questions about sewing machine needles!

Brother Sewing Machine Feet

This is my first post of 2017, so I thought that along with my good wishes, I would post some useful. So I thought I would answer one of the many questions I have been asked recently, where do I get all of those extra Brother Feet?

I am delighted that so many of you have tuned in recently to my shows launching the Brother FS210  sewing machine on Create and Craft and Ideal World. This machine has proved hugely popular, and many of you who already have the Brother FS130QC are asking whether you can get the additional feet offered with the FS210 to use on your existing machine.Well the answer is Yes you can! Please note, most feet are generic, but not all! Check the machine listing to be sure.

These feet are available directly from Brother, or other Brother stockists - just check out the codes.

Adjustable Binder Foot F071
This foot has clear plastic bias tape guide for attaching various width bias tape from 3/16” (5 mm) to 3/4” (20 mm).It helps you add binding quickly and accurately because it holds both sides of the binding in place as you sew. This cannot be used for binding quilts as the wadding is too thick to pass through the foot, but it is great for binding dresses!
Image result for brother F071
Adjustable Binder Foot F071

Gathering Foot F012N
This one gathers more fabric the longer the stitch, and the finer the fabric. Thick fabrics don't like to gather much unless you add the second fabric through the top slot at the same time. You will find tutorials on YouTube about how to use these feet.
Brother Gathering Foot (F012N)
Gathering Foot F012N
 Pintuck Foot F069
This is used to create fabulous heirloom sewing corded and non-corded pin tucks on blouses, shirts and many home decorating projects. When used with a twin needle, it creates perfectly parallel pin tucks. Great fun and very professional looking results.
5 Groove Pintuck Foot, Brother #SA194
Pin Tuck Foot F069

Straight Stitch Foot F042N
This foot is used for straight stitching on lightweight or fine fabrics. The single needle hole prevents fabrics getting pulled in the feed dogs.
Brother Straight Stitch Foot (7mm) (F042N)
Straight Stitch Foot F042N

Adjustable Zipper and Piping Foot  F036N
This foots allows greater flexibility of positioning the foot against a zip or piping than a traditional zipper foot. A very useful addition to your sewing tool kit.

Brother Zipper And Piping Foot (F036N)
Adjustable Zipper & Piping Foot F036N

Non Stick Foot F007N
I love this foot - it helps you stitch 'sticky' fabric like oil cloth, vinyl and leather because it runs smoothly over the surface of the fabric. It glides over difficult fabric surfaces with ease, while improving stitch quality in many problem fabrics. Some fabrics may get stuck under metal feet causing problems with a normal sewing foot resulting in poor stitch quality. It is perfect for hemming plastic tablecloths!

Image result for brother f007n
Non Stick Foot F007N

For more info on using these feet, there are plenty of tutorials on line - just google it :)

Also, if you have Brother quilting feet that came with your FS130QC, like the embroidery foot, the 1/4 inch foot and the walking foot, you can use them on your FS210 too!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Week 1 of #1YearOfStitches Completed

This year I decided that I wanted to make a new years resolution to do some 'personal' creating. So with this in mind I have decided to take part in #1yearinstitches.  This is a challenge that involves stitching something every day in 2017, posting it daily on Instagram (with the tag #1yearofstitches), and then posting about it once a week on your blog. I heard about it here on Instagram and here on Facebook!

So I've decided to post on Sundays. I have also added a couple of additional rules. 1 - no unpicking! I can go back later and stitch over the top but I can't undo it. 2 - no planning. I'm not sketching any guidelines, just stitching away and seeing where it takes me. 3 - I am trekking in the Himalayas in April for charity and as I have to carry everything, taking a hoop isn't possible.  So to keep up with the challenge I am going to take small scraps of fabric to stitch on, and then applique them into the hoop when I get back. 4 - materials.  I will use anything that comes to hand, fabric, lace, ribbon, buttons etc, anything as long as it is hand stitched in place. 

I started off with some floral designs, just to get some stitches down. The hardest thing to do is often to get started!
Day 2 - some florals
Some lazy daisy flowers, my favourite #colonialknot (a variation on a french knot), #blanket stitch and some seed stitches.

I feel the need for polka dots! Why not?
Satin stitched polka dots

It has been a busy week with sample requirements building through the week, but I managed to get a bit done every day. The most personal element was stitched on January 7th. I spent all day making bags on my sewing machine so it was nice to finish the day with a bit of slow stitching! That was the day that they laid my childhood heroine Carrie Fisher to rest, and it made me sad. So I added a sprig of rosemary created in #bullionstitch. Rosemary represents remembrance and so it felt right to add it to my #1yearinstitches.
Rosemary for Remembrance
 I am really looking forward to seeing how this develops through the year!
End of week 1

Thursday, 5 January 2017

A Christmas Quilt gift with Accuquilt Value Die

I love making gifts at Christmas.  It takes time and effort, and often ends up more expensive than buying a present. It is a common misconception that homemade = cheap! It certainly isn't that. However, there is something so special about putting your heart into someone special.

I created a lovely 'boy quilt' for the partner of my bestie Sarah using my Accuquilt and the included Value Die .  It cut up a dream, even the checks and lines on the patterns didn't cause me any issues as I lined up everything neatly in the die. The fabric was Homespun Dunroven House from Create and Craft (link is here if they still have any stock!). There are 12 fat quarters of beautiful soft cotton and I used most of it - there are a few scraps left over. I feel I need to buy some more now - it is beautiful to stroke.
The design was made up of squares, 4 patches and pinwheels. The Value Die set cuts:
  • Square 4.5" (4" finished)
  • Square 2.5" (2" finished)
  • Half Square - 2" Finished Triangle (cuts two)
I just cut as I went along, so I didn't really count how many of each I cut. I separated each 4 inch square with a pinwheel or a 4 patch, and I made sure 2 colours didn't touch each other, but apart from that I went random!

You can't beat simple Stitch In The Ditch! It fitted perfectly with this design.

I had a play with Flange binding  (the fine red edge along the binding). I wanted a very fine red line to add interest to the edging and this fitted the bill.  It is very effective and quite easy to achieve.  If you fancy a try, just Google Flange Binding Tutorials and you will see lots of tutorials on how to do it.

Finished item before I handed it over to it's new home - where it was greatly appreciated. Of course I made a label but I forgot to photograph it!

Finished and ready to wrap!
So if Santa brought you an Accuquilt this year, get that Value Die and get playing about! You will love it!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Quilt Now for 2017

Well as usual, there is plenty in the pipeline for 2017. One of those things is a new relationship with the lovely folks at Quilt Now magazine. I am thrilled that I will be having my very own supplement in issue 32 (out January 19th). This will be a foundation piecing supplement, and here are a couple of snaps of the projects I have created for it. There will be 4 in all and I am too excited.

I have also been working with Stix2 to develop an English Paper Piecing glue - and so we have one of my EPP projects in the same issue. I am just spoilt!
I also have a project in issue 33 - with the gorgeous Indian Summer fabric from those marvellous folks at Craft Cotton Company. Here's a sneaky peek of this one too! I can't wait to see what else 2017 has to offer!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Quilting journey part 1

It seems like ages ago but it was only just over a month ago that I came back from a mega trip with quilting and family at it's very heart, and I am sure that you will see quite a few posts about it over the next few weeks.
The journey started back at the beginning of October at Birmingham Airport with a flight to Montreal, Canada. My first stop is to spend a few days with family in Cornwall, Ontario with my Dad and then head for a week of sunshine with some of Dad's friends in Cuba.  I had a fabulous relaxing time getting a tan. Cuba is a poor country and so doesn't have a huge history of quilting, but I shared some English Paper Piecing techniques around the pool.
Dad and I enjoyed the weather as we relaxed, went snorkeling and even swam with dolphins.
After a week of sunshine,  we headed back to Canada to prepare for teaching. 

I had a great time introducing the Canadians to English Paper Piecing! These lovely ladies invited me into their homes and kept me topped up with coffee and biscuits as they got to grips with EPP.


I also taught another 2 classes at the Giroux Sewing Centre in Cornwall ON. I had a fantastic day and everyone made me most welcome.
We played with 45 degree diamonds and squares, and they loved it (at least they said they did!)

I was also lucky enough to spend some quality time with dad, his brother Nick and my gorgeous cousins and their kids. It was my birthday at the beginning of the trip, and we had a little family get together. The girls made me cards and drew me some lovely cards.
Uncle Nick made me the most incredible birthday cake I have ever seen! Slimming World cake this wasn't, and even though it was definitely calorie laden I did my duty and had a jolly good piece! It would be rude not too!


I made up for it with a bit of running!


Tuesday, 6 September 2016


After some comments made on my show the other night I have been contacted by a number of people offering help with my charity trip to Nepal next April. So I thought it would be a good idea to let you know what I am up to and why, plus how you can get involved. This is a long post so you may want to grab a cuppa before you begin.

What am I doing? Well I am asking myself that same question :) As someone permanently attached to my sewing machine, I have never been one for exercise or doing anything energetic. So what does a couch potato do for a challenge - why climb in the Himalayas of course! The challenge is on to trek to Poon Hill (3,210m) in the Annapurna region. The trek will take us through charming Nepalese villages where we will experience the culture of the mountain people of Nepal first hand. The challenge will be tough but the friendship and camaraderie along the way will be very special, and we are taking the challenge for very personal reasons. So why am I taking on the challenge of a lifetime?

Well, the beneficiaries of my trip are two groups. Firstly I am trying to raise £3000 for Heartburn Cancer UK who I feel saved my Dad's life. To help with that I have a just giving page where you can donate directly.

You can find my fundraising page here. Every penny helps people in the UK suffering from this terrible disease. Last Summer, and just weeks after his 70th birthday doctors found a big ugly tumour growing inside my Dad. Since then he has undergone Chemo and radiotherapy and on the 25th February this year a full Oesophagectomy at Addenbrookes in Cambridge. He is one of the lucky ones – he is on the long road to recovery, and he is getting better every day. This cancer went off like a bomb in the centre of our family and we have met many brave and caring individuals – both medical personnel and fellow sufferers (some who are not going to make it or have already sadly left us).
Now Dad is coming out the other side I felt that I needed to do something to help those who are taking the same journey that we did, and to say thank you to those who helped us. So I have chosen a challenge that befits the challenges that my Dad has been through, and continues to go through. Nepal is a place that he has always wanted to visit – and now he can experience it through me.

I am funding the trip myself so every penny that you donate goes to a great cause helping those dealing with this terrible disease, and helping to prevent more people suffering.

So here is a picture I wasn't sure I would see again - Dad at 71!
But you can't travel half way round the world and not try to make a difference in the country you are visiting. As a quilter I am fascinated by other cultures sewing traditions and so I had to make a quick Google search of quilts in Nepal and came across an organisation that gives me goosebumps! Quilts for Kids is an organisation founded in 2006 to provide work for economically-challenged women and to finance education for underprivileged children in Kathmandu. It operates in an encampment of Indian street beggars located in a large field in the Boudhanath neighborhood of Kathmandu. The women of the encampment make quilts from fabric collected from humble sources, which they stitch together by hand to create works of art. The sale of a single quilt will send a child to school for a year. So of course I had to buy one! This is mine and I am so proud of it. 
It is a large quilt, and the hand stitching is delicious. Here is a shot of the back and the lovely prairie points that decorate the edges.

This was a quote from their website that touched me deeply and made me feel that I had to help! "Ours is truly a global community - stitched together with threads of compassion, kindness and creativity." Who can argue with that!

So how can you help these fantastic women in Nepal.  You can help the charity directly by purchasing a Quilt for $190 plus postage (and import duty) which will send a child to school for a year. On my part, I will be teaching these inspiring ladies a spot of English Paper Piecing once I have finished my climb, and I am taking sewing needles with me to give as a gift. I needed to choose something that wouldn't be too heavy (as we have to carry it up mountains!) and needles fitted the bill. So if you have packets of sewing needles lying around the house that you would like to rehome, then pop them in an envelope and I will take them with me to gift to these incredible women. Send me a message via my facebook page and I will send you my address to post them too. All I ask is that they aren't rusty! 

So as you can see, this challenge is personally going to be a tough one. I have lost 2 1/2 stone already as I train and prepare for the adventure, but there is stil a long way to go. Whenever I have a wobble about "biting off more than I can chew" I think about these two great causes that I am proud to be able to help and it keeps me putting one step on front of the other. I cannot believe how lucky I am to live in a country where cancer services are available and have been able to save my Dad. I know many are not that fortunate and some will not survive, but we have to continue the fight. I am also delighted to be able to help those brave women in Kathmandu who have to battle to build a better life for their children. For us here where education is taken for granted, I am reminded what a privilege that has been, and how much I want to be able to pass that on gift.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

So what is Bobbinfill anyway?

So every time I mention using Bobbinfil on one of my shows I am inundated with questions about it. So I have decided to answer them here.

What is Bobbinfil? 
It is a remarkably fine and strong polyester designed as an underthread (meaning it goes in the bobbin). Some brands are also called Underthread or Bottomline.

Why do you use it?
Bobbinfil is designed to balance top threads being sewn. It is finer than a standard thread so you can get more of it on a bobbin, meaning that you have to refill your bobbin less often. This is a godsend when you are working on large projects. The downside is that it often only comes in white or black,  though some brands have expanded their colour ranges. 

There are a number of different thread weights - some specifically designed for Embroidery Machines. I use 90wt for my Brother Innovis 90E embroidery machine and 60wt for all my sewing machines. You can experiment

Where do you buy it?  
There are 3 main brands of Bobbinfil that I have bought in the past, and there are probably more that I haven't tried. All 3 have worked beautifully for me. They are Brother, Sulky and Madeira brands but there are others available. I buy them when I see them in my local sewing shops (as a former shop owner I fully appreciate the importance of local shops and the need to support them. If you don't use them you will lose them!). I have bought them on prewound bobbins or on the reel which is my personal preference.  You can also buy on line. Like most things, a quick Google will bring up a full list of suppliers but being lazy I often resort simply to Amazon.


Tuesday, 31 May 2016

New Challenges - and a request for help!

I have been getting messages  asking if everything is 'OK' because I haven't been sharing many quilt project pictures lately. Thank you and yes I am fine! In fact I have been having a wonderfully crafty time working on projects but just can't show them yet as they are involved in my newest project. I am delighted to announce that I am the new Editor of Linen and Lace magazine. Whooo hooo! It is so exciting to be asked to create a vision for the magazine and continue offering great sewing projects for you all. This will be issue 3 of the magazie produced by Tattered Lace. As a result, most of my recent work has to be 'unveiled' at publication!

I was thinking that it would be great to get some of you involved too! If I get enough submissions I would like to add an "Ask the Expert" feature in the next edition. If you have any sewing, quilting or deep dish die questions, then please send them with your name and town (or let me know if you want them published anonymously) to and I will see what we can do about answering them in the magazine. Only the name and Town info will be published!

I also thought that it would be great to show projects from the first 2 issues of the magazine - so if you have a project that you have created from previous Linen & Lace magazines then please send a picture with a few words about it to the same address.

So if you can help, please get in touch!

Here's a sneak peak of one of the projects :)

I am so excited about continuing this fantastic magazine - now it is time to get back to my sewing machine to make up a few more projects!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

What a difference a year makes!

Well it is a year today (15th of May) since I sold my share in the shop. And what a year it has been! It was a bit frightening to let go of the safety net that was a regular place of work, regular hours and regular income, but I felt that it was time for me to move on to new challenges.  VAT returns and stock control just wasn't floating my boat and could never leave me enough time to be creative. So I held my breath and took the plunge. 

Now a year on I can reflect to see if it was the correct decision. Heck yes it was. Since then I have hardly stopped. I have had the opportunity to visit the Houston Quilt festival and Quilt Market, meet fabulous people at the Great Craft Extravaganza, Winter Crafting and Crafting Live, work closely with creative people across the craft industry and educated more crafters through TV. 

Linen and Lace Magazine is now a big part of my life (we are working hard on Issue 3) and I have just finished 10 projects for the Prima Makes magazine. I love the creativity that brings. I even get to be Artist In Residence this month in Winchester. Sometime a leap of faith is all that you need to start a enormously exciting and rewarding period in your life.

I am hugely greatful to all of you who have supported me over the last year, Paul, my family, friends and crafters who continue to watch and comment. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!