Tag Archives: kookaburra cottage

Blue Dogs, Green Birds, Pink Rabbits and a Game of I-Spy.

3 Aug

I have finished two more UFO’s this week. If I am not careful I might run out. I am getting the hang of the quilt frame now although I have decided that there is not really any scope for imaginative quilting. The space available is too small. I need to come into some money to buy a long-arm setup but as I have no rich relatives ready to leave me their worldly wealth I guess it won’t happen. That being the case I am getting to be a bit of an expert at meandering. I don’t have too many problem stitches these days but I have also discovered that washing the finished quilt evens up the stitching in the antiqueing effect. It also makes sure that all the years sitting in the UFO pile in various dusty locations are washed away leaving a clean fresh quilt. It has the added advantage that you know how it will look when it is washed.

The first was originally a BOM by Kookaburra Cottage. This link will take you to the BOM page on their site and lots of lovely examples of their particular style of design. I have loved them since the first one I saw. They are a bit pricey as a pattern which explains why I make more than one from each.

Little Macca’s Farm

Someone once told me I should label my quilts. Nothing looked right but then I got an embroidery machine and I have never looked back. Just give me an excuse and I will make a label.

The other quilt is an alphabet quilt. I wanted to use up all the charm squares of children’s fabric I had accumulated. Looking at it again after all these years I see that I made it into an I-Spy quilt of sorts too.

In case you are wondering how I achieved the ‘wonky’ effect, wonder no longer. Starting with the top of the centre square attach a strip of fabric to the edge. Attach another strip down the right side onto the new shape. Then the bottom, then the left side. You now have an ordinary upright  block bigger than you need. Make a template the size you want the finished block then place it onto your straight block at any angle desired and cut off the surplus with a rotary cutter. Easy Peasy.

Mustn’t forget the label.

The monkeys are from Oregon Patchworks on this link. There are lots of variations on the monkey embroidery. This one is an applique but there are some straight forward embroideries on the same theme.

Let me leave you with another set of views from where I live.

View Towards the Beach

The Beach

The Outer Harbour


Eat Your Heart Out Little Green Men

24 Mar

Another UFO shot down without malice. In fact I quite enjoyed quilting this one. When finished I washed it and dried it in the dryer to see the effect. I have always shied away from washing quilts when finished but that was mainly when I did stitch in the ditch. With the amount of quilting on this one it just gets what is known as the ‘antique’ look. Putting it in the dryer enhances the look.  Mind you if you have just spent hours and money on a future  heirloom don’t take my word for it. I have a whole stack of pieced tops on which to experiment. The worst that can happen is that I use it to keep myself warm in the depths of Winter. I would hate to be responsible for a recherché bed for the dog.

The only snag is that a pile of UFOs takes up less room than a pile of finished quilts. ‘Some people are never satisfied’ I hear you say.

This is another  Kookaburra Cottage  pattern, originally pubished as a BOM. The unquilted version and another colourway are in my post  ‘Where’s Goosey Gander When You Want Him’  if you are interested. As I have said before, the  quilting adds that little extra something in the same way as the backstitch on a cross stitch picture.

Now that one is finished I am having a go at using a speed controller instead of the stitch regulator. Initial tests are promising although it would be a bit of a downer to find I preferred it to the stitch regulator when it is a seventh of the price. I have started on a quilt I am not too worried about and it seems quite easy to control, especially where ‘caterpillars’ are concerned.

Here is the control. Not the prettiest thing ever invented but who cares if it does the job.

Yes I do know it’s upside down.

I will keep you apprised of the results of the trials. A very good page to visit if you have a frame and midarm is Piecemeal Quilts it has a list of things to check and adjust and a few tips. I found it very useful.

Now for the advert.

March 30th to April 1st is the Spring Quilt Festival at Westpoint near Exeter. If you are nearby come along. It should be worth it.

In the Steps of Aristotle

17 Mar

Aristotle was the guy that said ‘The Whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Apparently he was right. Who after all, can argue with Aristotle.

I am afraid I am still on the subject of frame quilting. I am told that nobody looks closely at the cloth of a suit, they look at the overall appearance. If I had only known this when, amongst other things, I made suits I could have saved myself a lot of angst. The same applies to quilting. I have, apparently been expecting too much and nobody will notice anything but the overall pattern. I think the sad fact may be that this is true. Still, we soldier on and I am still working hard at perfecting the art. Here is another example I have just finished. I decided that practising on bits of fabric was all very well but quilt conditions were required for a true test. You will notice that I have made myself do the binding too before going on to the next quilt on the frame. After all a UFO is still a UFO until it is completely finished.

It is quite a cheery little number. I made it when I was just starting out with applique and I was experimenting. I didn’t know how to set up the tension and which bobbin thread to use for satin stitch so I did raw edge applique. Some people like the fact it frays a bit with wear and washing. I’m not so sure but for what it is worth here it is.

I had a bit of an obsession with hearts as they were a good way to use up charm squares. Now I use the charm squares more for general applique but the hearts  are still great fun.

Here are a few closeups. First the raw edge applique.

Now the not so perfect ,but still being persevered with, quilting.

Don’t you just love variegated thread on vibrant colours.

The back looks really good on the Aristotle principle too.

Recognise this old friend? Unpicked and requilted – definitely worth the effort. I also gave it a wash to redistribute the fabric and lose the holes from the original quilting. I have always avoided washing a finished quilt but with this amount of quilting the ‘antique look adds to the overall effect.

Close up of quilting.

We are getting there although there are still a few ‘deliberate’ mistakes. I believe you are supposed to have a few mistakes as  nobody is perfect but (here insert the name of your particular deity). I’m not so sure.

Smoke, Mirrors and Sleight of Hand

2 Mar

I finished the first quilt with my new machine,stitch regulator,carrriage combo. Am I happy? Nope. I can see no reason why I won’t get all the problems smoothed out and look back on the early times as a learning experience, at the moment though I am not a happy bunny. I finished one of my favourite tops and thought it was ok  until I looked closely then I found that I obviously haven’t got the hang of the setup. Happily, for the purposes of this blog you can’t see what I can see cos it is mostly on the back. I haven’t decided whether I want to unpick it all and redo it or even if that is possible at this point. However, you can pretend it is perfect and enjoy the result. I haven’t got a dog which is a shame because I gather that the dog’s basket is where all the failures go. It will probably end up gracing the floor when members of the small people class visit. Mind you it won’t get much wear under those circumstances. I don’t think that has ever happened now I come to think of it. I wonder what it would look like as a door mat.

It is a similar one to a top I showed you in July 2011. It is just different fabrics, same pattern. When you pay the price I did for the pattern(s) you make a few.

It is by Kookaburra Cottage and I kept fairly closely to the original colours as I liked them.

The Quilt.

Crocodile. Does it look to you as if he’s going to do the peanut tossing trick with a feathered substitute?

Monkey. I love the way he oozes into the other frame.

Zebra, believe it or not with perhaps a Tick Bird. I’m just an old romantic.

Someone commented that my zebra didn’t look like one so I tried again. Well what did you expect. Black and white is so passé. Blue is the new black – or is it white.

The Zebra

The Ark and the Dove of Peace. Looks like the sea is a bit choppyand I’m not sure why Noah is walking on water. He could get his socks wet.

Giraffe and Butterfly.

I did this as per the pattern but I wandered into the The Cotton Patch one day -not an easy feat when you live as far away as I do- and saw this fabric which I used in the next one. Much more authentic, I think you will agree. I have just spotted the potential for a bit of free motion on the background fabric.


Hippo and Rhino with Parrot and Butterfly.

Lion and Friend. I’ve seen a lion close-up on a kill in the wild and I can tell you, even full of food they are not that friendly.

Elephant and Mouse. What’s to say – such a cliche.

Kangaroo and Rabbit. That relationship has me a bit bemused. Should have gone to Specsavers. (You might have to live in the UK to get that reference).

Is it my imagination or are fabrics not as interesting as they used to be. I suppose it could be that as it is now expensive companies are playing safe and not risking printing fabrics that might be too different. Unfortunately I am totally incapable of using dull colours.  Apparently this is unusual among those that live in  grey countries. (Daughter number one did her degree dissertation on the subject). I blame it on my exposure to Australian patterns whilst escaping from Papua New Guinea for short sortés and retail therapy. To be honest PNG has the potential to be sunny if only it didn’t rain so much.

Stop Press! I have had email exchanges about the stitch quality of my set up and I think that I have the answer. Basically I can sort out the looping problem but my expectations are too high. ‘C’est la vie ‘ as our Gallic cousins are wont to say. It still beats anything I could do with free motion quilting off the frame. In fact I don’t know how anyone does that. I could go back to stitch- in- the- ditch but it kills my shoulders and it’s a real pain trying to keep ‘in the ditch’ so to speak even with all the fancy gadgets I have purchased over the years. I have discovered that having my original ‘frame machine’ available off the frame with the purchase of the new one, I now have the facility to do echo quilting with a large throat machine. This helps somewhat if I could only keep the stitches straight.

The pile of OFOs has to diminish so watch me go.

Frustration, Mayhem and the Screaming Heebie-Jeebies

27 Feb

When I decided to replace the machine on my frame they didn’t mention the need for a resident weightlifter to move it on and off the frame. I have the setup as high as possible in order to see under the needle and that makes it even more difficult. Luckily the big cheese used to be a rugby player albeit a long time ago so I have to ask him if I need to move it. Unfortunately he doesn’t like spinach so I’m not sure how long this arrangement might continue. Oh well, I guess at a pinch I could always go for the resident weightlifter.

The whole quilting frame thing seems to be jinxed. I spent a not so small fortune upgrading the machine and carriage added to which I have a stitch regulator and I still can’t quilt to anything like the standard I would expect. The catch 22 of course is that having spent all the extra money I cannot just abandon it as I did last time and revert to stitch in the ditch. Practice, practice and more practice is in order I suppose. Hopefully in a few months time I will not understand what all the fuss was about. I could of course have thrown the whole lot in the river under my window and jumped in after it. Watch this space.

If you are interested in the setup I have a few pictures.

This is a side view of the new aluminium carriage. It weighs a ton but I expect that added to the weight of the machine it helps keep it on the rails so to speak. It could be what caused the back rail to crack too. I am awaiting a replacement. More expense no doubt.

Back view including new machine.

Side view ditto.

Note ant like handles. It certainly won’t be getting any design awards.

The blue box with the number on it is the switch unit for the stitch regulator and the number is the stitch length setting. The one on the photo below is the control box and one of the sensors. It runs with the wheel on the carriage and sends signals to the control box . This controls the stitch length. It runs backwards and forwards. There is another on the bottom part of the carriage to control the sideways settings this runs on the frame rail.

The frame itself works on three bars. The backing is pinned onto ‘leaders’  fixed  onto the top back and front bars and the wadding laid over the top. Leaders are secured into a groove in the bars and make life much easier. They do not however come with the frame but have to be bought or made.  A row of stitches keep the wadding  in place and also gives a straight line along  which the top is placed to get the straightest possible feed and so most accurate pattern of quilting.

The top is rolled onto the bottom front rail.

I did a whole border and a row of hearts before I looked at the back and realised it was not acceptable. The top tension was too loose and the top thread was looping through. Unfortunately tightening the top thread seems to increase the ‘caterpillar effect’ on the curves which is why I had loosened it. I wouldn’t mind but I had tested and double tested. Still it wouldn’t be a skill of anyone could do it first time would it. By the way the quilt with the animals worked quite well. What was that about going off the rails? It must have been on the way round the bend.

The top is then brought up to the line stitched on the backing/wadding and pinned in place.

The next picture is at a bit of an odd angle owing to the way I took the photograph but it gives the idea. The three layers are now attached ready for quilting.

Each bar is on a rachet system to wind the layers up and down for an evenly tensioned sandwich. Please ignore the badly wound  leaders. They should of course be nice and neat.

Here is the quilt on the frame with the carriage and stitch regulator.

The machine is really for straight stitching so there is no mechanism to drop the feed dogs which is essential in free motion quilting. The compromise is a replacement plate to cover them. It makes the plate slightly raised but seems to work. There is also an optional foot holder for free motion quilting. Not that it is optional if you want to free motion. Luckily it came bundled with my machine. This allows the fitting of a darning or free motion foot. The open toed foot is very useful for seeing what is going on. There is also a foot for following round the edge of templates and appliques.  Maybe one day I will have a go at that but let’s pull ourselves up on the furniture before we try the marathon.

Ironically the actual quilting is therapeutical or at least it would be if I wasn’t always worrying about what the back is going to look like.

I am now going off to have another go. If you don’t hear from me again I really did jump in the river although it’s so shallow that would also probably fail at that too. To save face  perhaps I had better just persevere. If I come across any useful revelations I’ll let you know.

Stop Press – UFO Numbers Diminish Over Cornwall.

28 Jan

I am going great guns here. Finished Five  UFOs and counting. I am also getting to grips with the ‘evil machine’, the combination of quilting frame and sewing machine. I traced a couple of problems to design faults probably made worse by my refusing to upgrade the carriage I had on the frame as it was perfectly servicable. Having already laid out nearly the original price of the whole frame on a stitch regulator I didn’t really see why I had to pay out even more for a new carriage when the equipment fits the original one. The only problem is that the wire is a bit short and I think was causing the sensor to be pulled away from the wheel and therefore stop controlling the stitch length. It also restricted the amount of travel available and that is serious on a none longarm setup. The Big Cheese came to the rescue (the engineering degree wasn’t wasted then) and a with a bit of judicious rearrangement of control boxes and wiring I think we have cracked it. The proof of the pudding, as they say will however be in the eating . I am forcing myself to finish each quilt completely before quilting the next so I am only now rolling the new one onto the bars. If I didn’t finish each one I would just end up with a pile of UFOs in a slightly more finished state. They would still constitute UFOs.

I shall be keeping my fingers crossed that the fix has worked although that could make working the carriage a bit difficult.

The one I have just finished is an Old Macdonald theme from a pattern by one of my favourite Australian pattern companies, Kookaburra Cottage. I just love a lot of their BOM projects although they do work out rather expensive if you just buy the patterns. I get over this by doing lots of each. This one is ideal for a beginning applique as the pieces are all nice and big so no fiddly corners to negotiate. The original pattern has buttons for eyes too.

I present ‘Little Macca’s Farm’

I fancied a pastel version for a change.

A few close ups.

The Farm












I didn’t want to do stitch in the ditch after I had finished but I like to define the blocks. I tried doing some meandering as I went along to get over this.

Meander over the ditch

I also did a label to match on my embroidery machine.

The Label

I  haven’t reached the standard I would like to but I continue to  experiment and I  still have a huge pile of UFOs on which to practice. Lets hope the little green men don’t arrive before I’ve finished.

Old Macdonald Had A Farm

14 Nov

You will be glad to know that my printer is printing and my hands are still clean. In fact I feel so uncomfortably clean that I decided I needed a wallow in the farmyard. I was looking through some old photographs and found some of a quilt I made for a raffle. It was when I still used polyfilament for quilting. I was never happy with it but it was almost invisible. It was also all I had and with no shops I used what I had. I do not use it now, I don’t like its shiny unnatural look. Being invisible it is also very easy to leave bits of it attched to the quilt. Not a good look.  I am aware I am not in the majority though so I will say no more.

The pattern is entitled ‘Little Maccas Farm’ and was a block of the month from Kookaburra Cottage some time ago. I just bought the patterns so the scrappy look is my interpretation using what I had.

It is great fun to make, the pieces are large for stitching and it can use up lots of odd fabrics.

As you can see the stitching is not wonderful. This was one of the first ones I did. I was teaching myself and it was a bit of a learning curve. It still went down ok though. They would have made lots of money except they ran out of raffle tickets. I have to confess I was a bit upset about that. I had spent hours and lots of money making it and nobody bothered to check they had enough raffle tickets. Still – water under the bridge.

I no longer use buttons for the eyes  as most of the quilts I make are meant to be used, not hang on the wall. However, in those days I followed patterns.

A bit of handstitching on the whiskers there. I don’t often do that any more either. I have perfected doing the stitching on the machine which makes it a bit sturdier. A least that is my excuse, if the truth were known it’s probably sheer laziness.

More handstitching.

I love the simple but effective shape of this chicken.

I finally used up that fruit fabric.

I think the dog is one of my favourites.

If you like the pattern I believe it is still available. Being an ex-BOM it is a little expensive but then it depends how much you want it.

Doing a bit of a house move this week so postings may be a bit intermittent. Don’t be put off by lack of new material  come back and hear how we went on. I am sure there will be a few amusing anecdotes. The most amusing may be how we fit the furniture from a large three bedroom house into a small two bedroom flat. The words ‘quart’ and ‘pint pot’ come to mind.

But Where are the Fish?

25 Jul

‘Curiouser and curiouser’ as Alice said when her feet disappeared from sight as her head shot into the stratosphere. Apart from a near miss, with a skillful skid, on a patch of whey, in my shiny bottomed crocs, my feet have not exactly disappeared. However we are now the proud owners of a fish tank heater. No we do not have any fish, we have cheese. Yes, I said cheese, the blessed stuff is taking over our lives.  Daughter number two and I spent a portion of this afternoon searching for the fish heater. We found a very impressive pet shop. Not having any pets I haven’t been in a pet shop for donkey’s years.  I seem to remember they didn’t smell very nice. I suppose the correct word if we are to believe Dr Johnson is actually stink as, not having noses pet shops can’t smell but boy did they stink. Anyway, this one was a bit like a pharmacy. I was very impressed. I presume there must be ventilation in the cages as there was only a vague aroma of mouse flavoured straw wafting through the air.

I think one of the problems is that up to the age of ten I lived in a house  which regularly housed field mice. I seem to remember that on at least one occasion they took up residence behind the stove. (I often felt like that myself in the Winter). Mice behind the stove are not very nice. If memory serves they were fairly permanent but a combination of childhood memories and the fact my brain doesn’t work as well as it used to probably means it only happened once. They probably left in a hurry when my navy blue school knickers, put in the gas stove to warm in the winter, spontaneously combusted. It’s enough to make anybody leave home.

Enough of that, back to the fish tank heater. Apparently when you make gruyere in particlar you have to keep it in a humid atmosphere. Having spent years and money finding solutions to keep the cellars dry I did not take kindly to the suggestion that we bring in a humidifier and heater and make the corridor between the cheese cellar and the fabric cellar resemble a turkish bath. Compromise prevailed and we now have the cheese storage shelves  surrounded in black sacks and a bowl of water with a fish tank heater. Who said your brain goes as you get older. Go on like this and we will slow down patent office business big time. I would post a picture but one black sack is much the same as another.

On an entirely different subject and back to applique. I expect that many of those who have looked at my blog and appliques such as the cowboys will think that it must be difficult to do machine satin stitch on small pieces. Bear in mind that the ones on my patterns are usually done on individual blocks. My friend bought one of the kits from Gollyville in Australia. (You really must click this link. It is amazing.) She took one look at it and realised it was a lifetime’s task. I thought the same but eventually I offered to do it (probably thought it would help me live for ever) and I must say it was one of the most enjoyable appliques I have done. Unfortunately I refuse to hand applique, life is too short and my head too full of ideas- although I admire those who do. The quilt had to be done on a single bed sized piece of fabric. Trying to manoeuvre  that on a machine round small pieces is no picnic but actually I was surprised –  it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. The biggest problem with it was that, as I had done so much applique over the years the zig zag mechanism was on its way out so some of the satin stitch was a pretty scalloped edge rather than the smooth finish it should have been. When I took the machine to be serviced the engineer wanted to know what an earth I had been doing to wear it out. He wouldn’t understand so I didn’t go into details. I was sad to lose the machine though as it had been a friend over many years. The point I am making is that you shouldn’t just look at complicated looking appliques. Have a go, you might be surprised.

To summarise from the blogs posted so far if you are thinking of applique perhaps you could start with something like the cot quilt featured in an earlier blog  followed by something more complicated such as the farm wallhangings or quilt. Then go on to something more complicated as the pieces are smaller such as the cowboys and when you have  mastered that the Gollyville should be a doddle and after that the sky’s the limit. As I keep repeating, the pace is the secret – only do what you are confident of being able to do but also do not do something you are going to get bored with and therefore not finish. Then we are into the realms of U.F.Os and there lie years of guilt and wasted opportunity. You really don’t want to start down that track.

I have just realised that I haven’t included any photographs which, this far down the blog is a bit remiss of me. If you want a challenge but not too big a one and with a stunning result try the Kookaburra cottage Noah’s Ark quilt. As you can see the photos were taken when it was still a U.F.O. – actually it still is but I will get round to finishing it soon. It’s just that the quilting isn’t my favourite bit.

The Ark - obviously

The Elephant and The Mouse - and I thought elephants were scared of mice

The Giraffe. Isn't that fabric gorgeous.

Hippo, Rhino and Friends. That hippo looks too cheery considering the weight he's carrying.

The Zebra

and the pièce de résistance —

Isn't it lovely. I must finish it.

If you are thinking of making this quilt you need to sit down before you look at the pattern price. It started as a BOM (Block of the Month see side bar) so each animal is a separate pattern and priced as such . I think it’s worth it but then I’m an addict. If you look carefully you can see it is not difficult although it has the pieces overlapping the edges as in the my other post and also .

Happy quilting. I would appreciate some comment if you can spare the time. I have had a couple but I don’t know whether anybody enjoys the blogs or just thinks they are the rantings of a demented mind and steer clear after the first view. Please comment, even rude ones though I hope there aren’t too many of those.

Confessions of a Quiltaholic

8 Jul

I admit it, I like fabric. No, I have to be honest, I love fabric. I also love creating little artworks from tiny bits of fabric (known in the quilting world as ‘The Stash’). It could have something to do with being exiled to faraway countries with little to do , lots of sun and a collection of vibrant coloured scraps and fat quarters. Add to that the need to keep cool and an airconditioned room with a sewing machine and a lot of time and the resulting pile of quilts and wall hangings was inevitable.

At first I made traditional patchwork quilts with the cases full of fat quarters I took back from each leave. Then I went to Papua New Guinea which is very close to Australia. So close that I went several times and had lovely holidays in which quilt shops featured heavily.  There I discovered applique. Not just any applique but bright, happy applique. I discovered Kookaburra Cottage patterns in particular and also Australian quilting magazines. They have so much colour and fun. From then on I was hooked on applique and bright colours and I couldn’t stop.

After a while I started experimenting with my own patterns. I am not particularly good at drawing but I designed some interesting and different quilts and bags. I soon realised that if you are going to put 9 cowboys on a quilt, each in an identical space they need to be roughly the same size and  my sketching didn’t work too well in this regard. Luckily my Daughter is a graphic designer and she showed me how to trace on the computer. Suddenly the patterns looked professional and were much easier to produce. An idea was born, if I liked making these quilts perhaps others would. When I returned permanently to England I decided to set up a web site selling patterns and kits for my designs. I wasn’t too keen on doing the tracing when I had a Daughter to do it so we came to an understanding. I design, she traces and does the patterns, I make up the prototype. I like to think we have produced some very professional patterns between us. Some are made into kits as many people like to use the same material as the original. Also it is easier to have everything needed to start a project instead of having to buy everything and being frustrated by lack of availability and choice.

Quilt pattern Cowboy Layout

This is what the pattern looks like for the cowboy quilt. It has pattern pieces reversed for tracing onto fusible webbing and full sized templates for placing and fusing a whole cowboy before placing on the background fabric. These are printed on one side so that they can be placed on a light box without confusing the tracer. Also included are a general instruction sheet and instructions specific to the cowboy pattern. In addition there is a photograph of the finished quilt and a sheet with the layout measurements and materials requirements. I have tried to make my patterns user friendly based on years of using other people’s patterns and noting the pros and cons.  For individual pictures of the cowboys have a look at nsaaquilting.co.uk or see cowboy quilt link above.