Top Quilting Tips No. 2 – A Class Act

In the ‘Countdown to classes‘ series here’s number –

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Today I want to talk about classes and why you should attend one on a regular basis. As far as Apatchy Quilting goes I always envisaged that it would be a haven away from the stresses of everyday life as well as a quilting venue that nurtures creativity and inspiration. This is why I try to encourage everyone to think positively and why I discourage negative talk at classes – because it discourages people.

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I was sad to hear that Rod McKuen died this week – I loved his poetry from the time I was a teenager. This portion of the poem ‘A Safe Place to Land‘ reflects what I feel about Apatchy:

“There should be some silence in this place so thought can harvest things it’s lately caught. I hope that you will take this as a resting space. A bench provided just before the clearing up ahead.”

Linda Steele is an award-winning quilter. She put together a list of 10 reasons to belong to a group. I couldn’t have put it better myself so here is her list:

1. Inspiration

Who cannot help but be inspired by other peoples quilts.

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2. Information

In our busy world it is impossible to keep up with everything going on.

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3. Camaraderie

Sewing and quilting can be a solitary activity. Of course we all need time alone to prepare, design and achieve but it’s good to show others what we are doing as well.

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4. Critique

Honest feedback is hard to find in the quilting world. Family and friends are too close and often don’t have the expertise. This is where a  group with the skill to articulate and use the principles of Art and Design as their base is invaluable.

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5. Insight

Everyone’s work is different and it is very interesting to see how other people  approach a theme or idea.

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6. Competition

Nothing spurs you on like a little bit of friendly competition.

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7. Support

Designing your own quilts and entering competitions can be tough and  rejection is common. This is where groups can offer understanding, commiseration and encouragement.

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8. Purpose

Self-esteem is often built on achievement and finishing a quilt or helping organise an activity is very rewarding.

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9. Confidence

Advising, listening, supporting and sharing with others have the advantage of boosting our own confidence.

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10. Friendship

I have met so many wonderful people including online friends through my quilting groups.

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Exactement! My thoughts too.

See you on Tuesday and Wednesday 9:30am to 12:30 for the day class or 6:00pm to 9:00pm for the evening class if you’re a night owl. Be there or be square.

Until tomorrow

Happy Quilting

Kaye

If you have missed any of the Countdown to Classes series here are the links:

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Top Quilting Tips – No 3 – Nuts and Bolts

In our countdown to classes series here is number

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Nuts and bolts – well no bolts yet – that’s for later. Your task today is to:

Make sure your toolbox is packed and ready for action

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As with any activity you could spend a lot of money on lots of gadgets and tools but, for quilting I think you really only need a few. Apart from the operational sewing machine, thread and an iron we talked about in previous posts (see below for links), here’s what should be in your toolbox:-

Rotary Cutter – the first rotary cutter was manufactured by Olfa in 1979. Before that quilters had to try to cut accurately with scissors which must have been a nightmare. So you could say rotary cutters put a whole new spin on things (get it?).

Now although Olfa invented the beast I prefer this type:

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I’ll tell you why – they have a safety lock like pretty well all rotary cutters BUT these ones engage when you apply pressure for cutting. That means you don’t have to REMEMBER to slide the catch up each time you put the thing down.

Make sure you have a new blade – it will change your life it really will. If you are missing part of a cut or hear a noise it’s time to change the blade. You should be able to cut through fabric EASILY. Rotary cutters are just circular razor blades so if it isn’t going well it’s new-blade-time. That should keep your rotary cutter spinning around round baby right round.

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Oh and remember what I just said – they are round RAZOR BLADES – that means they are DANGEROUS so be careful when you change the blade and make sure you dispose of the old one sensibly.

Scissors – the rotary cutter revolutionised quilting but you’ll still need a pair of scissors or two. One larger pair for jobs like cutting the edges of a quilted top before binding it. And maybe a small pair to use for snipping threads. Keep your scissors for cutting fabric only as paper is the natural enemy of the scissor. You have been warned.

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Pins – use fine flat-headed pins for your piecing and teeny appliqué pins for, well – appliqué. Go through your supplies and ditch any pins that are bent or blunt as they can damage your work. And a pincushion is useful at this point too.

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Plus you might want to invest in a magnetic pickup device or a telescopic magnetic retrieval pen as it is more precisely called. Whatever it’s called get one so you can easily find those stray pins on the floor before they find someone’s foot.

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Seam Ripper – no matter how careful you are there’s going to be some reverse sewing at some stage and you’ll need a seam ripper. Invest in a good one. I like the brown-handled Clover ones because they’re very sharp (naturally) and the little ball stops it from damaging fabric when you get a bit carried away. Using a cheap one will only end in tears. Enough said.

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Rulers – there are hundreds of rulers available. You don’t need them all! If you want to do homework (and you will) you’ll need a 6 1/2″ x 24 1/2″ ruler – long enough to cut through a length of fabric.

To square up your blocks use a 12 1/2″ square or 14 1/2″ square ruler.

I’d also suggest a 6 1/2″ square ruler to make life easier for you.

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Mat – be kind to your cutting mat for although it can heal itself from cuts it does not cope with many things in the sewing room – like heat (don’t get it hot or it will warp) or being warped (don’t store it upright with the weight on itself or it will warp). The manufacturers reckon you should soak them in cool water but, as I have a large mat, where can that be done while keeping it flat?

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Also – if you cut 8,435,723 pieces of fabric at the same spot (say the 1/2 metre mark) your mat will eventually wear and you might consider investing in a new one before you saw through your cutting table and amputate your toes!

To start I would recommend a mat 24″ x 36″ because you can cut through a length of fabric folded in half. If you are stretched for space you could get by with a smaller one but, what can I say, size matters!

I also like the spinning mats because it makes it easier to trim small pieces and is particularly useful when you are doing paper piecing (or foundation piecing).

Can you believe that you can make a quilt with just the tools above? Well you can’t! You also need the things we’ve talked about in the last few posts. Oh and one more thing – if you don’t already know – quilting is addictive. You will want to keep going once you start. This means you need a comfortable chair when you’re sewing – one that helps your posture and takes the pressure of your back and shoulders. A set-up like the one below is recommended. I also like the chair with castors because you can swivel to your cutting mat, then to the machine, then the iron in a cut-sew-press kind of routine. Oh and as you swivel round you can pretend you’re in Star Wars on the Millennium Falcon fighting the Imperial troops just before you jump to light speed (or is that just me?).

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And there’s two more things you need but you’ll have to stay tuned for those….

Until tomorrow

Happy Quilting

Kaye

If you’ve missed any of the countdown just click here to catch up:-

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Top Quilting Tips – No. 4 – A Pressing Problem

In our countdown to classes series here is number

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So we all know that pressing is an important part of quilting and that, to perfect your technique, you need to develop a mutually- satisfying relationship with your iron.

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Maybe you never owned an iron before you started quilting. Maybe you iron everything including the underwear. Maybe you have shunned ironing as the result of a bad experience when you had to iron 48 shirts in one day.

Whatever your experience, when you are quilting your iron needs to be performing at its peak to get you where you’re going. The irons of the quilting world serve us well but we often take advantage of them. I have left TWO irons on all day on more that one occasion – points for consistency but that’s it.

So here’s today’s task:

Give your iron the once over it deserves.

If your iron doesn’t have a self-cleaning function (can I get one of those for the house?) you’ll have to do it yourself. To start, give it a good clean with a damp cloth. That’s after you make sure it’s turned off of course.

If you’ve accidentally pressed the vlisoflex or some stabiliser on the wrong side and the sticky remains are still visible on the plate then now’s the time to give it a good clean with something more than water.

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I’ve read that you can use methylated spirits for this but I just use the commercial iron cleaner you buy from the supermarket. By cleaning the plate you can ensure your next project doesn’t get ruined. Don’t take to it with harsh abrasives or steel wool. There’s no need to be violent. Follow the instructions on the pack and you can’t go wrong.

Now I’ve also read that you should clean the water tank with diluted vinegar. I just use distilled water all the time and don’t get the mineral deposits that require this sort of cleaning.

Don’t store your iron face down because it doesn’t like it. Make sure you leave it for 15 minutes to cool down before you put it away and don’t wrap the cord (if it’s got one) around the plate – wrap it around the base.

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Now about the surface on which you iron – it should be tall enough that you don’t get back strain. Maybe you can use a portable board strategically placed between the cutting board and the sewing machine if you’re doing fiddly piecing and you don’t feel you could benefit from getting up every 30 seconds to walk to the ironing board because you’re already trim, taut and terrific…just a thought.

Maybe you could do as Ricky Timms suggests and make an ironing table out of plywood covered with batting and then heavy fabric stapled to the base. The blog sew many ways have a tutorial on how to build this one-

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Or maybe you already improvise. Have you improvised? Do tell.

How to press is something that we cover in class. You’ll learn about the pros and cons of using steam and other things seemingly more sinister

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For today we’re just looking after the equipment. Maybe you should take a before and after photo of your iron.

Until tomorrow

Kaye

If you’ve missed any of our countdown just click on the links here:

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Top Quilting Tips – No. 5 – Nice Threads Man!

In our countdown to classes series here is tip number

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Nice threads doesn’t refer to topics on message boards (for the more modern) or the white suit John Travolta sported in ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (for those of us more vintage than modern). I’m talking about the myriad thread choices we have when we are piecing and quilting (and hand sewing too). Do we choose cotton, metallic, silk or polyester? And what does weight mean?

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Different numbering systems are used in order to specify different sewing threads. Apparently different spinning mills used their own thread sizing systems and there are still several in operation today. Complex n’est pas?

Basically the systems are based on weight. The Tex system was invented to be the standard in the industry. In this system the higher the number the heavier the thread. Unfortunately it hasn’t quite taken the quilting world by storm.

What quilters like are the weight standard  and the number standard. Under the weight system the larger the number the finer the thread. So 50wt is finer than 30wt. Why? Because it takes 50 metres of 50wt to weigh one gram whereas it only takes 30 metres of 30wt to weigh one gram because it’s heavier.

Confused? We haven’t even mentioned plies (the number of yarns twisted together to make a single thread) or the denier standard that embroiderers use! That standard is based on the weight of nine kilometres of thread. Think about that when you’re tying up your roses with your old panty-hose!

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There are even formulas to determine thread count which I won’t divulge here but trust me they exist.

Your formula is to use a good quality thread. Personally I like Rasant (a core-spun thread – meaning it has a polyester core and cotton covering.). For general piecing it is strong, robust and reliable. You can use it for quilting too and generally beginners would use this in one of our classes without any trouble. Plus there are lots of colours to choose from.

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For free motion quilting I really like Wonderfil Mirage (a 30wt rayon) because it is a variegated thread that really pops and enhances the quilting. Of course if you use a finer thread such as Mirage you need to use the appropriate bobbin thread (also finer) such as Invisafil so it doesn’t all end in tears and broken threads.

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There are videos here from Wonderfil showing what you can do with Mirage thread.

Linen threads are very useful for hand quilting and, if you have hyper-embellishment disorder like me you will favour metallic and silk threads for that extra ta-da element.

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I think we’ll have a closer look at the different threads and what they can do for your quilting during the year because there really are dozens of options.

When it comes to thread choices, colour is another issue. Did you know that Marsala is the Pantone colour of the year?

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It is described as a “hearty yet stylish tone”. Some others say it’s more reminiscent of bodily functions and decrepit buildings. What do you think? Is it outside your comfort zone?

Your task today is to :

Have a look in your stash at what threads you have. Is there an abundance of neutrals or are 80% of them the same colour (I have lots of blue)? Have a look at them again and see if there are some gaps in your choices – either colour-wise or texture-wise. Resolve to widen your repertoire this year.

You’re halfway through your tasks now so you deserve a little reward. Have a look at this video. It’s a little sexist but it made me smile.

 Until tomorrow

Happy Quilting

Kaye

If you’ve missed any posts in this series find them here:

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Top Quilting Tips – No. 6 – Pimp Your Machine

In our countdown to the start of quilting here’s tip number 6

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OK your sewing machine has been dusted and cleaned but what about some customisation? You personalise your other possessions. Do you have those family stickers on the back windscreen of the car? Do you have the personalised address labels for your snail mail? Have you put a little dangly charm on your phone? Then what about your sewing machine?

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Don’t laugh – one of my customers who runs a retreat at Lake Tahoe – ooh there’s an excursion waiting to happen – tells me that all the girls buy Singer Featherweights for retreats and take them to an auto shop for a custom body spray.

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Now down here in Oz I haven’t seen something quite so drastic but here’s my Top 5 suggestions…

1. Antenna Toppers – not the foxtail please. No sewing machines don’t actually have aerials but think outside the box and you come up with a thread holder. You will need one if you’re using special thread such as metallic or even some of our lovely Wonderfil Mirage (Intentional Product Endorsement there did you notice?).

Now I’m not talking about putting the spool of thread in a coffee cup beside your machine (just me?). What you need is a proper stand-alone spool holder.

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I use one of these and find that it makes my sewing, especially thread painting, SEW much easier.

2.  Bumper stickers – No I’m not suggesting you cover Betsy with ‘My Other Machine is a Bernina’ or ‘Ask Me About Sewing’ – actual stickers I kid you not.

Rather than shame your machine think practical. The most practical I know are the Qtools Sewing Edge.

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These little beauties stick to the plate on your machine to help you guide fabric towards the perfect 1/4″ seam. And don’t think it’s only beginners who can benefit from these babies. When you’re driving on into the night your eyeballing may not be what it once was.

3. Under The Bonnet – you checked your bobbins in yesterday’s task so now you need to check your needles.

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Working with worn or bent needles will only give you grief. We’re talking tension problems or stitches dropped or shredded. The size of the needle has to match the fabric you’re using as well as the thread. I can see we’ll have to talk more about this.

4. Covers – not seat covers or wheel covers but a cover for your machine. Let’s face it – the rigid white covers that come with the vehicle are very ho-hum. So here is your chance to really individualise your machine AND add a project to your UFO list. Create that Wow factor by making a sewing machine cover that says you. Here’s one I saw in France and I bought the kit so it’s on my list AND I’ve actually started the project.

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Maybe you want to be practical

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or maybe a little more whimsical

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Here’s your chance to make a cover that says you. It can be retro, modern, bright, neutral – whatever tales your fancy. In true how-do-I-look style you can chang your ride from a fashion victim to a fashionista.

 5. Lights – so your car might have headlights, tail lights, fog lights, bumper lights and brake lights. What makes you think you don’t need to see as clearly when you’re accelerating through a section of chain stitching or a particularly tricky foundation pieced project?

You don’t necessarily need a miner’s light but hey – if it works:

Maybe a laser light (say what?):

Try to use ambient and task lighting with some magnification if you need it. Daylight light is best (you can buy bulbs with this feature – we have them in the classroom – who knew?). We don’t want you to end up with eye strain so watch those peepers.

Until tomorrow

Happy Quilting

Kaye

Missed some of the series – click on the links here to take you back

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7…Sew Ready

Here’s the next in our countdown to Apatchy Quilting classes –

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How are you going with your countdown to classes? I had the stereo cranked up listening to David Bowie while I sorted out my UFO list and I nearly Ziggy Stardusted when I realised how many I had – occupational hazard when you own a quilt shop!

Pozzie Dog was helping me sort out the paperwork. He just turned ten and, even though he’s now a senior citizen of the canine world, still turned up to work to consider what to do with the boxes of paper around the office.

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But I digress. Now supposedly quilters are practical folk who strive to maintain order in their piecing and their precise points. So we shouldn’t have any problem with today’s task….

Make sure your sewing machine is ready for all the action it’s going to get this year.

Maybe you have a top of the range machine that cost the equivalent of a luxury car

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Maybe you’re using Aunty Glad’s cast-off

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Whatever your mode of acceleration, just make sure Betsy or Bernie is ready for the massive workload ahead. This means getting a service if you haven’t done so in the past year. No really, your machine likes getting its insides cleaned and oiled and will be ever-so-grateful.

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You might even consider unearthing the instruction book – the one at the bottom of the sewing box under the spare bobbins and screwdrivers and elastic you bought for something but now you can’t remember what (or is that just me?). Have a bit of browse inside – it’s amazing what gems you might pick up. Maybe there IS a dedicated setting for that elusive 1/4″ seam??

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The sewing machine has been around for quite a while. They were used during the Industrial Revolution to speed up the manufacture of clothing, but the first machine was invented by Thomas Saint in 1790! Apparently he was about as good at inventing as I am at free motion quilting so it wasn’t until 1830 that a couple of Frenchmen (bien sûr) patented machines to make uniforms for the French Army. Or so says Wikipedia and he would know. This is why the French have the jump on fashion and why their soldiers may not have always won the battles but always looked very smart.

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If you’re guilty of neglecting your machine and it’s running like Thomas Saint’s, now’s your chance to make amends. Give it a good clean, use the cover that came with it to keep it free from dust and for goodness sake pamper the poor little pet.

Did you know that 13th June this year is Sewing Machine Day – me neither but we can’t wait that long – do it now!

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You’ve got 7 days to give him/her the ultimate makeover. Go for it. Whether it’s computerised or a deadly treadly show some respect and at least vacuum the dust out.

Don’t forget to make sure you have your 1/4″ foot, walking foot and darning foot (for free motion quilting). You know you’re going to need them. Oh and make sure you’ve got enough bobbins.

Until tomorrow

Happy Quilting (well not yet but soon)

Kaye

8…UFO Sightings

Here’s the next in our countdown to classes at Apatchy Quilting

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So now your sewing room is organised and you can see what’s in there – now I know the joy is in the journey not the destination BUT your job for today is to unearth your UFOs – all of them! Now I’m not talking about the magazine pages you marked with little Post-it notes while you were reading and decided to make-that-when-I-get-a-chance (or is that just me?).

I’m talking about the unopened kits that you bought at the last four Craft Shows – the ones in the basket under the spare bed (just me again?). Also the half-done quilt tops, tablerunners, bags and other major works buried at the back of the cupboard, in the to-be-done bag or in their own dedicated plastic tub (you know who you are).

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Oh and what about the quilt tops that are finished but just need the quilting, or the binding or the labeling? (My end-of-year challenge quilt is a candidate for that.)

Today get them all out and make a list – maybe it’s a big list – even better. Maybe you’ll have new projects that you don’t yet know about (even though you promised yourself you weren’t buying anything else from the Craft Show until you finished what you had). They won’t be on your list now but we can always add a supplementary list for newcomers.

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I like the AllPeopleQuilt challenge here but there is only space for twelve projects and I might need more or maybe less. This challenge only works if there’s twelve exactly. So I’d like to be a little more flexible than that.

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As I see it we should be celebrating every time we finish a UFO – even if it hasn’t yet been identified as unidentified! Sounds a bit existential doesn’t it? This is why I like to add your projects to the Gallery and mine too – so we can all celebrate when things are DONE.

Why don’t you just make a list of all your projects from the itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny to the oh-my-God-is-that-even-possible with the option of extending the aforementioned list should subsequent projects identify themselves during the course of the year? Much simpler. Then we can have a celebration at the end of the year. Maybe we should have an end-of-year prize for the most UFO’s – or maybe we just all give ourselves a pat on the back for finishing what we can?

So rifle through that organised sewing space of yours – right now – and get out your UFO’s. Make a list with the details of each UFO and where it’s up to then send me a copy too (send it to kaye@apatchyquilting.com.au). Use this 2015 UFO Challenge form if it helps. We’ll keep a tally of the number of projects my clever Apatchy people finish during 2015.

Teresa from the fabrictherapy blog has an excellent post on how to organise your UFOs if you want to have half a chance of actually finishing them. The pictures of the tubs above are from her page. Have a look if you are having trouble. She is almost as organised in real life as I would like to be in my mind. Until tomorrow

Happy Quilting (well not quilting as such but getting ready for quilting)

Kaye