Where has the time gone? I haven’t been here for months!  Sorry – life took over, including a little (big) birthday to celebrate.  However, with everything else going on I have managed to slot in some quilting to keep me sane.  And it really does keep me sane…..

Firstly, a quick update on The Beast.

A recap – The Beast is my name for a memory quilt for my daughter made from my late husband’s Ospreys rugby (union) jerseys.  King sized and weighs a ton! It has been in progress for about 2 years – see my previous blog if you are interested in the full story.

This quilt seems to be taking me forever, but it is moving forward now.  Our 6 month old local quilting group, The Ystradgynlais Quilters, meet monthly in a local hall with plenty of space to spread out.  The group has given me the encouragement, impetus and the space to quilt The Beast.

I get through about 5 or 6 straight lines of walking foot quilting in each 5 hour group session.  Slow, but it is a walking foot, not a running foot, on a heavy king size quilt and, because of the unorthodox construction of the quilt (interfaced polyester rugby shirts are really thick!), there is a significant depth of quilt to get through.  The first line of quilting has recently been unpicked (which took about 4 hours), because of disastrous tension problems.  That’ll teach me to learn about my machine before I start quilting!  They were such a mess, but I left these lines as ‘anchors’ while I did some better quilting prior to unpicking.

About half of the planned quilting is now complete.  Minor errors are ok and will remain (they are part of the character of the quilt) but I cannot afford any more duff lines of quilting – I don’t have the time to unpick again!  I am also trying to decide whether it needs extra quilting lines – I am concerned that the quilt is so heavy it could tear if there is not enough quilting.  I’ll do my original planned quilting first and then decide what more is required.

I am finally making progress.  My daughter might even get it for her birthday in August…..or maybe Christmas…

Now to other animals.

A family member celebrated a big birthday recently. He owns a very handsome miniature Schnauzer, Jasper.

I saw a picture of a Foundation Paper Pieced (FPP) Schnauzer, and my head said “oh that’s perfect! I can do that!”.   (My head does this a lot.)

As an aside, I should say that I had only done one ‘real’ FPP piece before – a Robin cushion as a Christmas present (a pattern from TartanKiwi).  I loved doing this, so the quilting group to ask me to do a ‘masterclass’ on FPP.  Masterclass?  That’s a laugh – the teacher was only one step ahead of the pupils!

Anyway, back to the portrait of Jasper.  I purchased the pattern (a SelenaQuilt design by Elen Gromova) and did my usual trick – quickly skimmed the apparently huge pattern and panicked.  So the pattern hung about for a few weeks while I procrastinated…..

After the procrastination, I realised that the pattern was not quite as big as I had first feared – there were multiple forms of Schnauzer on the pattern!  The next issue was the pattern was only 8 inches square when complete – not big enough for the cushion I wanted!  To get the pattern scaled up I took it to the local Resource Centre, where a very nice lady copied it at 150% for me to make it into a 12 inch panel rather than an 8 inch panel.  (There is no copyright issue here – the pattern suggests that you scale it up if required.)

To make it a real portrait, I took the picture of Jasper above and used it to scribble in the coloured areas on the pattern to attempt to make it as handsome as he is!  I collected the fabrics and split them into the colour groupings.  This was the key stage in the end – this planning prior to even picking up my rotary cutter.   It gave me confidence that I knew where I was going, even if I wasn’t sure how it would turn out!  So I set up my folding table (6 ft x 3 ft), set up my new (to me) Bernina Minimatic 807, which I had never used in anger before, and set to work.

This shows the top half of the block.  Like lots of FPP, this pattern is made up in sections.  I confirmed which sections needed to be symmetrical – cannot have a wonky Schnauzer – and made these first to ensure that I didn’t run out of key fabrics.  The individual sections went together in an obvious way, in that in FPP the patches in each section are numbered, so once you get the first 2 put together (sometimes easier said than done) for each section, FPP is reasonably simple. Keep your seam ripper handy though……  In the end the pattern came together easily.

I must be honest – I made a little ‘squeeeee’ noise when I got to this point.  You know the noise I mean – the sound you make when you are completely surprised that something looks like it is meant to look!  Trimmed to a nice square, I was delighted.

I had found the perfect fat quarter to make the cover the correct size, but I knew it needed a coloured ‘stopper’ (I am not sure what you call it – a narrow strip all around to frame the block) prior to the outer border.  I am hopeless with colour though – I can agonise for hours.  My head said turquoise – so I auditioned the dull turquoise that I had in mind (yuck), then grey (too samey), white (boring), yellow (really odd), several blues (too samey again) and bright red (don’t even go there!).

I finally came across a bright turquoise which I had thought “no – too bright”, auditioned it and Bingo! – it worked.   My instinct was right in the first place.

The back was also quilted – with simple Labrador fabric, as the recipient had owned a well loved choccy Labrador prior to Jasper. 

A (very) fat cushion inner completes the look. So here it is:

I even finished him 10 days before the birthday – wonders will never cease.  I am the sort who is sewing in ends on the way to the birthday party!   He has now been presented to his new owner and was very well received.

And finally, things I have learned since we last spoke:

1) I can do reasonably complex Foundation Paper Piecing (FPP), which suits my love of precision!

2) While it is nice sometimes to have an all singing all dancing sewing machine, you don’t NEED one to make really nice things.  This FPP cushion cover was made using a 40-year-old (probably about 4th or 5th hand) Bernina Minimatic 807.  Don’t get me wrong – I would have no hope of quilting The Beast on this little machine, but this Bernina is so easy to handle that it allowed me to easily keep the precision that the FPP Schnauzer needed.  What annoys me is that I know that I got rid of one of these machines about 25 years ago, so I had to buy this one recently!

3) I cannot sew anything arduous the day after drinking cocktails!  One of our Ystradgynlais Quilters sessions was the day after I celebrated my 60th birthday with friends.   While I had promised myself that I would not start another major project until The Beast was finished, I just couldn’t face quilt wrangling The Beast that day!  Instead, I started a simple job – turning some 5-inch square charm packs in indigo and white into HSTs (half square triangles) to make a start on the (possible / probable) diamond quilt that has been in my head since I have started quilting.   This was really all that I could manage that day!  (I say possible / probable because I might change my mind by the time I finish the HSTs!)

Well, that is enough of me blathering on for now.  I don’t have the awesome expertise that some of our contributors have – I am just an ordinary person trying to get on with the quilting in between life events.  If you have any comments, all constructive feedback is gratefully received – as part of the great learning experience. xx


  1. Judith Clarke

    It’s nice to hear about all your exploits. I too Quilt on an old machine and the thought of all those buttons on new ones terrifies me. I don’t need them with what I do. Well done and look forward to the next instalment.

    1. Bartysmam Post author

      Thank you Judith. That Bernina is brilliant! So easy to keep my seams consistent.
      I sometimes have a crisis of confidence writing the blogs – there are so many fabulously talented people who write for us. I want to show that not everyone is brilliant or hugely experienced, but we can all enjoy our hobby. Xx