Thursday, 13 August 2015

Events just keep coming!

Once I sold the shop I really wasn't sure whether work was going to flow to my door, or form a small puddle at the end of the garden. As it turned out, it came gushing forth in a way that was both exciting and terrifying . It is gratifying to know that all those hours sewing and working silly hours was going to pay off. Now I finally get to live my dream - teach all over the place!

So the first big event I have attended this year was the Festival of Quilts where I was demonstrating a fantastic new range of fabric cutting dies created by the amazing papercrafting company Tattered Lace. This new range of Linen & Lace deep dish dies are certainly making an impact, and I have had a brilliant time introducing them to quilters at the NEC. I hope to be able to show more of you at the WI Centenary Fair in Harrogate in September and through shows on Create & Craft.

I will also be paying a return visit to Harrogate in October when I am thrilled to be invited to teach workshops for the Great Create show. This is the Fully Kitted English Paper Piecing Pincushion I will be teaching on Friday 2nd October at 11.30am - 1pm & 1.30pm til 3pm. So if you fancy giving EPP a try without the hassle, then book a place and enjoy a bit of light sewing!

I will also be teaching my Vintage Button Brooch workshop at 9.30am - 11.00am on the same day - so there will be much dashing around between sessions. Again the class is fully kitted, so you don't need to worry about bringing anything with you - except your creativity!

I also have a few more classes coming up at Bee Crafty - with my simple Machine Embroidered bag class on Saturday 22nd August.

You could also join me on this fun Freeform Class on Friday 16th October where you will learn design techniques to help you create your own free form quilt designs.

So as you can see there is plenty there to keep me busy :)

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

English Paper Piecing Tutorial

I have really got into hand sewing in general over the past few years, and now I am totally in love with English Paper piecing.

A traditional type of quilting that is certainly making a come back - EPP is often a starting point for new stitchers because it is simple and extremely portable. A pile of hexagons or diamonds stuffed in a plastic folder take up no space at all in a travel bag - and is my holiday project of choice! In fact - it makes me a far more sociable stitcher even at home because I can stitch in front of the TV instead of tucked away in my sewing room.

This is a tutorial to make a small block which you can then turn into a pin cushion. You can omit the last stage and simply applique it onto a background and use it as a block!

It is a fabulous way of using up all those scraps - and this little lot is all made with left over Tilda bits and pieces. Why waste a single inch???

  • 19 paper hexagons
  • 6 inch square of fabric for pin cushion backing
  • Scraps of coordinating fabric (4 x 5 inch squares from Spring Lake Tilda Charm pack were used for this sample)
  • Handful of stuffing
  • Threads – contrasting for basting and a matching thread for sewing together
  • Needle
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Paperclip

Make the hexagons

You can buy precut paper pieces or cut your own from recycled paper. Cut your fabric pieces at least ¼ inch larger on all sides than the paper piece. This extra fabric will be folded over the paper pieces to make a hexagon exactly the same size (see Fig 1).

 Next, baste your fabric around the paper. Use a paperclip to keep the first fold in place and then gently fold the fabric edge over the paper template. (fig 2)

Tie a big knot in the end of a contrasting thread (so you can easily see to remove it later) and place a stitch on the fold. Keep the thread taut as you stitch the corners – you want to keep the fabric tight to the template. (See fig 3). You can buy fabric glue sticks that remove the need for stitching but I don't really have any experience of these.

 Continue folding and stitching all the way around your hexagon until all the sides are secured. Fig 4

  Baste 19 hexagons in total and lay them out as shown in figure 5

 Now you are ready to begin sewing the shapes together. Take two hexagons and put them right sides together. Then, using a small whip-stitch in a matching thread, sew the pieces together. Be careful to just catch the very edge of each fabric piece with your needle. You don’t want to sew through the paper templates.

Continue sewing all the hexagons together, one seam at a time. The stitches should not be visible from the front (fig 7).

 Once you have sewn all the hexagons together, press the blocks to set them in place. Carefully remove the basting stitches and take out the papers to use again. 

Pin Cushion

To turn your block into a pin cushion, place the block and the backing fabric right sides together. Do not trim the backing fabric yet. Sew all the way round the block (a sewing machine will stitch a good strong seam).  The trim the backing to be slightly larger than the hexagon block (fig 8).
Cut a small hole in the centre of the backing fabric and turn the whole thing through the hole. Poke out the corners and press again. Stuff, and stitch the hole up. Now add pins!

EPP as blocks

These are all hexagon and 60 degree diamond templates appliqued onto a backing fabric so that they can be used on a variety of different projects. They would make stunning quilt blocks or bordered to make larger cushions.

Start now and you will have a fine stash of them to give away for Christmas presents - all made with the little bits we would normally throw away!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Quilters Tape - what do I need it for?

There are lots of products on the market set out to trap us unwary quilters into parting with our hard earned cash, only to sit in our sewing box for ever! After a while we get a little savy and begin to ask the question - What do I need it for? Quilters tape is one of those items! So you may ask, why do I need 1/4 wide masking tape? As a question I am often asked - I thought I would just tell you one reason why I use it!

I find it perfect for marking out quilting lines when I don't have a marker handy, or I am afraid to mark the fabric. Here I have used it to make a 1/2 inch 'echo' line around the inside of the block (where you echo an existing line - in this case, the seam). I have also marked a diagonal line from one side of the square to the other. While I am confident to 'eyeball' 1/2 inch from a seam, a large diagonal space can be tricky - so I take no chances.

This is low tack tape so it wont distort your fabric when you remove it. You can even sew over it a little bit and it still safely puts away (though don't get too carried away :) )

This is what it looks like once the tape is removed. So easy and so effective!

So next time someone asks you what you can do with quilters tape - you have at least 1 answer :)

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

What's in a Wadding?

Increasingly, people are asking me about wadding! It is an integral part of quilting - and can really affect the resulting quilt.

As it happens I am presenting a show on wadding/batting for the US Create & Craft channel - so I thought I would share my thoughts. By the way - what we call wadding is known as batting across the pond - the two terms are interchangeable!

Question - what do the different methods of processing mean?

Needle Punching

  • This is where fibres are needle punched or dry felted together to create uniform layers that are strongly fused and creates a soft drape.
  • The more the fibres are punched together, the denser the resulting wadding.
  • Needle punched wadding requires very close quilting - often with stitching no further than about 4 inches apart.
  • The needle punched fibres are easy to glide a needle through ad so is perfect for the hand quilting enthusiast.

Needle Punching with Scrim

  • Scrim is a lightweight sheet of stabiliser that is needle punched into the wadding as it is formed.
  • It adds strength and durability, and supports the final item when it is washed after completion. 
  • This stability also allows for quilting much further apart, allowing stitching lines 8 - 10 inches apart. 

Thermal Bonding

  • Thermal bonding is used for fibres like polyester or wool. Needle punching for these fibres can cause fibre migration (or bearding) where the finished wadding has a 'fuzz' and can easily show through the resulting quilt.
  • Thermal bonding is where a small amount of 'low melt' polyester is mixed in with the wadding fibres and then passed through a warm oven to melt them together.
  • Thermally bonded polyester has a higher loft (height) and is very light weight and 'poofy'! This can add real dimension to the quilting and adds real definition.
  • Thermal bonding in high loft wadding often requires a stitched area of 4".

Question - Should I pre-shrink?

  • Some wadding will shrink depending on the fibre content - and this is usually noted on the packaging so make sure you keep a note once you have removed it from the packaging.
  • 100% cotton & cotton blends tend to shrink the most. This can be used to create the 'antique' look that many quilters desire by washing AFTER the quilt has been completed.
  • If you do not want to achieve this affect, you should pre-shrink.To pre-shrink your wadding, submerge in warm water (not hot) and soak for 20 minutes. Gently squeeze out excess water by rolling it in a dry towel. Be careful as wet wadding is very fragile. To dry your wadding, lay it flat or put in a warm dryer for a short time. 

Question - What are the different varieties of wadding and when are they best used?


Polyester has many advantages for the quilter:
  • It is lightweight and durable - it will spring back into shape no matter how many times it is washed.
  • Washable by hand or by machine.
  • It is good for those with allergies because there are no allergens in it.
  • Inexpensive and available in a wide range of lofts & thicknesses.
  • Higher loft wadding are great for showing quilt stitch definition.
  • Bags and items of haberdashery that are used often.
  • All items that require frequent washing.
  • Good thermal properties so great for cold weather quilts!
  • Children's play mats - though not recommended for babies (you should only use 100% cotton for baby quilts)

100% Cotton

This is a firm favourite with quilters who like the antique/heirloom look and the pleasure of working with pure cotton. It has been used since the earliest days of quilting and is still hugely popular today.
  • It is soft and can be quilted with a lot of detail. 
  • Washable by hand or machine (on a cool wash).
  • Great for hand quilting.
  • Cotton wont melt if you put a hot pan on it, so is great for table runners, place mats etc.
  • Thin and low loft
  • Breathable
  • Ideal for giving your quilt that heirloom look, as it shrinks (about 3%-5%) and wrinkles the first time you wash it.
Perfect for:
  • Heirloom quilts.
  • Summer quilts as it is light and breathable.
  • Competition quilts

Cotton/polyester blend

This is the best of both worlds!
  • The light low loft feel and breathability of cotton with the durability and safe washing of polyester.
  • Popular blends are 80% cotton/20% polyester and 60%cotton/40% polyester.
  • A blended material is a good choice for quilters who are unsure which batting is the best for their quilts. Cotton and polyester blend batting is typically less expensive than pure cotton but pricier than completely polyester products.
  • Just about anything!


  • Wool is the warmest of the waddings on the market and is the best choice for quilts which are used in damp and cool climates as they are able to absorb moisture.
  • It is too warm for Spring and Summer use.
  • Wool is popular with both hand and machine quilters.
  • It is lightweight and retains it's loft though out the life of the quilt - making it popular with art quilters.
  • It can attract moths if not stored correctly.
  • It can be tricky to wash - and should NEVER be tumble dried!
  • It is a pricey option!

There are other waddings available on the market - including bamboo and silk. Eventually, the choice of wadding is personal. It can be based on how you plan to use the finished quilt, how you want to quilt it, what look you want it to have or how much money you can afford to spend.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Change is Good... I think!

Sometimes change is looking into a big scary abyss with no idea where we are heading. Sometimes it is a leap of faith where you screw up your eyes, your courage, and then simply jump. Other times it is a more considered decision when you know that it is time to move on to pastures new.

My journey into change is the third one! I have loved the 4 years I have spent with Julie building up Bee Crafty from nothing into a thriving business that brings a lot to the community. Julie is going to continue with the same ethos that has made Bee Crafty so popular, but it is time for me to leap!

For me there are new challenges on the horizon. I will continue to teach my workshops at Bee Crafty, as well as being freed up to teach anywhere else where people want me :) My shows on Create & Craft continue to grow in popularity, and I am now a regular on the US channel, and a demonstrator for Jo Ann Craft & Fabric and Craft stores in the US. It also gives me time to work on my book as well as take a sneaky trip to the US to teach if the need arises (Paul has kindly offered to carry my luggage!) So staff rotas and VAT returns will no longer be on my list - new quilt designs and teaching will be!

Fingers crossed that this change will be one of the best!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Star Wars Day

If you are on FaceBook or just about anywhere, it can't have passed your attention that Monday was Stars Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you). As a dyed in the wool sci - fi fan, I was thrilled at the plethora of TV shows and articles about one of my favourite genres - but I was even more pleased that my first foray into the world of Jo Ann Fabric & Craft stores as their newest demonstrator on Create & Craft in the US was based around my two favourite things - fabric & science fiction. A whole show based around Star Wars Fabric!!!!! I was a happy bunny/Ewok!

I even got my very own Star Wars Style opener! I really rather like the title of Galactic Overlord :)

 The set dressers went all out with the theme! Only a couple of the figures were mine - there rest belong to the crew. I think they were as excited as I was :)
I made a mistake - I claimed the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel run in 6 parsecs - when in fact it was 12! But things always seemed faster when you were younger, and I don't think Hans Solo would mind :)
Don't worry - there are pictures of fabric etc at the end. 
So with all these lovely fabrics to play with, I couldn't resist running up a couple of 'samples' for myself - all in the name of research of course! The tote bag is just the right size to carry my long ruler, and the front pockets are perfect for a rotary cutter and scissors!
I also made a little zipped bag and a storage basket for good measure. One really should try these products out!!!!!!
I have had some requests for tutorials for these, because there wasn't time on the show - so over the next few weeks I will try to find a little time to sit down and write something!

Here is my existing Star Wars stash (nearly enough for a quilt... for ME!) - which will now find a new home in the flannel black & white Star Wars box I made. It's like I planned it! 

Monday, 27 April 2015

Fun with colours

In December our City & Guilds level 2 group got together for a messy weekend. Basically we played about with dyes for two days and a great deal of fun was had by all.

It's taken some time but I've managed to get all of my samples into my book, so I thought I'd share a few pictures.

The page on the left is using transfer paints onto paper using items like keys and doillies as a resist.
The pieces on the right are using silk paints and experimenting with gutta, wax as a resist and a bit of salt to move the paint around!
Left - playing with bleach. Right - transfer paper 
Right - discharge paste 
Left - tray dying. Right - batik dying with wax. 
Tray & bag dying. Lots if fun. 

It was huge fun and I cant wait to get started sewing with it :) 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Twisted 4 patch tutorial

I love to share simple patterns that make beginners look really good! So quilt designs that look tricky but that are really simple to make fit the bill perfectly.
Here is one that is fast, fun and will make everyone who sees it go "wow, did you make this?"
It a variation on the twisted 9 patch and so I have called it the twisted 4 patch. It is a great pattern to use for fabrics with bold designs because the patches can be left quite large to show them off.

Like the 9 patch, it works for any size pieces as long as they are all the same size and they are all square. This sample uses 8 1/2 inch squares because you can easily get 4 of them out of a fat 1/4. 

Step 1
For each block cut 4 squares measuring 8 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches. Press the seams in opposite directions so you can lock the seams together at the intersection. Sew them into a 4 patch and press.

Step 2
Now you need to cut apart your blocks again! Measure 2 inches from the centre line and cut from top to bottom.

Rotate the blocks and repeat until you have cut the 4 squares into 9 blocks. Now you should have something that looks like this!
Step 3 - Rotate!  Now the fun part starts. When making multiple blocks I like to make sure that I rotate each block in exactly the same way to ensure continuity of design.
  • Centre block - rotate by 180 degress.
  • Swap the top and bottom rectangles over.
  • Swap the left and right rectangles over.
  • Leave the large squares in place
You now have a new 9 patch layout that looks like the image below.

Sew the rows together, and then the 3 strips together.
Now you have a new block! Great fun and simple to make.


To make a small quilt top (30 inches square) you will make 4 of these with 4 fat quarters.  It's great fun and so simple.  I hope you have fun and if you make it please Facebook me pictures. 

Quilt update

Just a quick post because I have a very busy week in front of me with 10 shows on Create & Craft, 2 days teaching and a day running the shop. So no time to get bored - which is just the way I like it :)

2 of these shows are for our new kits designed by myself as Bee Crafty Designs and part of the Sew Easy range.

So here are a couple of pictures of our 4 kits (2 cushions and 2 quilt kits) and I can't wait to show them :)

The shows are on Tuesday at 11am & 3pm. Each kit contains full instructions and fabrics to make each design. For the quilts you get all the fabric you need to make the quilt front and the binding, and for the cushions you just need thread and a cushion pad!
I can't wait to share them with you - and I hope you enjoy the shows!

Channel details:
Freeview 36
Virgin 748
Freesat 813
Sky 674

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Exciting kits

Where does the time go? It;'s already mid February and some of my bulbs are making a valiant effort to reach the light and when I left the shop on Saturday at 5.50pm it was still light. So spring must definitely be on the way!

As usual, it's been busy here at Payne towers, with filming for Create & Craft in the US, as well as continuing to demonstrate here in the UK. Yesterday we had a little change of scene with a visit to the Craft Hobby & Stitch show at the NEC. This is a trade show and so we get to study up on new trends and products, and we have some lovely stuff coming to the shop as a result! (no spoilers!!!). But there was one stand that we were particularly keen to visit - the Groves & Banks stand. These guys are just about the largest distributor of notions in the country and it's where we source all our pins, needles, scissors and generally quilting ephemera. Well, we were delighted to be approached at the end of last year to visit them at their head office for a chat. Well, Julie and I have never been known to turn down the chance for a chat about quilting - especially if there is tea and biscuits involved! So we dutifully headed off without much of an idea why we were going! So imagine our delight when they said that they wanted to work with us on a range of quilting kits! They had seen the kits that we produced on our one off Bee Crafty show on Create & Craft, and they would like to make and distribute them to shops around the UK. Hang on a cotton pickin minute.... you want to do what????

Well to cut a long story short - the new kits were launched at the NEC this weekend. 2 beginners quilt kits and 2 cushion designs (both available in pink and blue). Oh my, excited is not the word!!!! I couldn't resist taking a picture!

I'm afraid the light isnt brilliant, but you get the idea :)

So these are part of the Sew Easy quilting range and are printed with Bee Crafty Designs - Designed by Sarah Payne on the packaging. Just too exciting! There are plans for more, with Julie & I coming up with more designs to add to the range. But this is our first born, and so feels extra special!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Dear Jane

Some times you wonder what you have started! In my case, I have been doing shows with the Dear Jane Quilt book and every time I look at it I think "one day...." well now that day has arrived, and it's all my own fault!

With the regular Saturday sampler class at Bee Crafty coming to an end I thought what a great excuse to make the quilt it would be if I taught it. Not the whole 225 patterns, but a simplified version. Now I am addicted! 60 blocks in and I struggle to work on anything else because I just want to get going.
I have posted some of my progress on my Facebook page and lots of people seem fascinated with this particular quilt.  It has to be my most popular posting so far!

So I thought I would post my progress here and answer some of the more common questions.

After I have taught the blocks in my workshop I will post my instructions here as well so it would be worth checking back.

So here is the first Q&A session.
Q. How big are the blocks?
A. Trim your blocks to to 5 inches, the block will eventually be 4 1/2 inches square and you need to have a1/4 inch seam allowance all the way round.

Q. Do the templates in the Dear Jane book include seam allowances?
A. No. They are drafted from the finished 4 1/2 inch block.

Q. How do I add the seam allowance?
A. For some blocks, it is just a matter of adding 1/4 inch to the outside edges. For other techniques like foundation piecing you need to add a seam allowance to each section, and for piecing it needs to be added to each piece. I will cover this when I get to those sections.

Q. I have bought the book but don't know where to start. Can you help?
A. I know it can be daunting but don't worry. The best place to start is with a couple of the 9 patch blocks:
A -6 Uncle Homer
M- 10 Made Simple
M 12 - Hop Scotch
J 6 Granny Weaver
J7 Chicken tracks.
 These use squares, and some of the smaller squares can be made up as strips and cut shorter.
Then if you like applique you can try these melon shaped variations - I stitched mine by hand
A7, E1 & E2

Q. Where will I find the instructions that aren't in the book?
A. The quilt is so big that all the instructions wouldn't fit in one book! You can find more information on or just keep coming back here!

This is the original and world famous Dear Jane quilt, hand pieced and completed by Jane A Stickle in 1863.

These are some of my finished blocks on my design wall. I have just completed block number 62! So still a couple more to go!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A few quilts

I thought I would take the opportunity to post a few pictures of some of the quilts I have made over the last year. As you may know I have been appearing on Create & Craft TV channel as a guest quilt demonstrator since last august, and I have now done over 100 hours of live tv. This has necessitated the creation of quite a few quilts!

The following quilts have all been created using EZ Acrylic rulers from Simplicity and I have enjoyed them all. Sometimes it has been a bit stressful with just a couple of days notice - these people don't seem to appreciate that I have a full time job :) however, I am happy with all of them!

Dresden Plate
This one was the perfect opportunity to use some of my much loved Japanese style fabric. I love it!

Easy Angle Acrylic
This ruler takes the maths out of half square triangles, and I  used it to create My Half Square Triangle Sampler - all 12 blocks use the same 8 HST and 1 square, but they are all different layouts.

Twinkle Star Acrylic and Easy Heart Acrylic
The twinkle star was for the blocks and the easy heart was for the applique and marking the free motion quilting shapes inside the blocks. Huge fun!

EZ Petal Ruler
This is so bright and summery, and perfect for my spare bed where it is destined to go between classes!