18 months of shielding gives you plenty of time to learn and hone a new skill, I have what my husband describes as an unhealthy obsession with Disney and our Christmas tree is an eclectic mix of Disney decorations collected each year and marking many trips to the parks as well as discs that marked each year since I left home (until Disney stopped making them … oh the travesty). With lockdown in place last Christmas it was difficult to source things, our summer trip to Florida had been cancelled and I felt at an all time low ebb. I really wanted a Disney Christmas tree skirt but here in the UK such a thing didn’t seem to exist.

The Disney tree with the hidden tree skirt!

In the August of 2020 I sold my husbands grandmothers singer sewing machine that had been sitting in our cupboard for the last decade, and bought myself a more modern but very cheap Brother LS14S, my mum commented that I would soon outgrow it, but at the time I was happy with the simplicity of it and I was only ever going to do straight stitching really wasn’t I? I didn’t need anything fancy like her Husqvarna Epic 2.

August passed and September turned into October, the Covid situation remained unchanged and the new machine sat in its box waiting for me to get an idea that needed it. I saw an advertisement on Facebook for some Disney Christmas fabric and thought to myself, I wonder if I could make a tree skirt? I had last used a machine way back in 1995 to make a skirt and hadn’t touched one since. So fabric purchased and on its way I started to look into how to make a tree skirt.

I found a very energetic lady on you tube called Donna Jordan, and she made it look so easy, and unlike other patterns this one was a star shape and could use lots of the lovely Disney fabrics. I watched that video over and over, making notes but still had no idea where to start with turning the big pieces of fabric into the smaller pieces needed for cutting.

I enlisted the help of my mum and via zoom and with some tutting, and blue air determined that the fact I had a rotary cutter was a good start, but quilting does not use a Helix shatter resistant ruler to cut pieces. She ordered me my first creative grids rulers, an 8.5” square and a long 24” x 8.5” ruler. It was now November 26th and Christmas was coming, the tree would be going up on December the first so the deadline was set.

Rulers in action, the zoom resumed and she taught me to cut the diamonds for the tree skirt, she told me I was mad for even attempting diamonds and Y seams on my first rodeo, but I am never one to back down from a challenge! So with the video loaded up on my iPad, I followed along step by step to create the tree skirt, this one didn’t require binding just flipping inside out to right side and top stitching, and it went together easily, the points matched up and the diamonds didn’t phase me. The tree skirt was completed on November 28th and I had caught the bug. I was itching to try something else.

It was finished! No binding on this as it was self binding but a sparkly silver top stitch instead.

I didn’t  have a stash as such, but I did have a few Harry Potter fat quarters from a store that shall not be named, and with a search on the internet I found a straight forward looking pattern, with some advice to use a fleece backing to avoid the need for batting I set off making my son a Harry Potter quilt. Is it my finest work…. No, does he love it…. Yes and that’s all that mattered! This was my first attempt at binding and the you tube videos made it look so easy…… maybe not!

He loves it and that was all that mattered.

Being able to make a friend and my sons Autism mentor a quilt as a gift for Christmas was a nice moment as she loved it and it helped her achieve the new colour scheme she wanted for her lounge, the original pattern came from Moda but the mustard tones were just too much and dominated the pattern, so it became an original instead. Stitch in the ditch quilting which I do not love and the last time I used full machine binding.

What started out as one pattern developed into another.

As December came and went I was gifted an advent calendar by my mum which every day had a little project to make and helped me to develop skills over that month. The Debs fabrics advent calendar had me attempt my first foundation paper piecing to make a needle case (oh and incidentally the mitres on that picture make me cringe now!) and practicing hand finishing binding, I was then hooked enough to make teddy bears, dogs and bags to give as Christmas presents.

One of the advent calendar projects that got me into FPP
A Christmas gift for my mum

By New Year’s Eve I had already completed 5 quilt tops, found that I despise basting them, but that I love the quilting part. I started watching Missouri Star videos and the Man Sewing series on free motion quilting. I am a doodler at heart so this really appealed to me, having spent many an hour drawing zentangles, what better way to progress than to doodle on fabric with thread and a needle.

First attempts at free motion

Starting simple with loop, swirls and waves on quilt sandwiches made from those excess mustard blocks I had removed from the Christmas gift quilt. I completed my first large free motion quilt as a Mother’s Day gift for my mother in law in the February of 2021, this quilt made me learn flying geese blocks to create chevrons and then I quilted these with a pattern of bubbles and waves. I also hand finished the binding and realised it wasn’t as bad as I had feared!

The beach themed quilt of so many firsts for my mother in laws beach house

The stash was building, I had been recommended a few online stores to use by friends such as Empress Mills that was actually just us the road from me at Colne, lovely jumble fabrics for beautiful Alison Glass fabric, and eventually found one that became my main source at Debs Fabrics, here I found friendly service and lots and lots of grunge in every colour under the sun, I ordered some strips and found myself making my first foundation paper pieced project, tulips in a window, it was complicated and took around 65 hours but it was very pretty, and when done I turned it into a cushion and gifted it to the wonderful lady that had inspired me to use this grunge fabric.

65 hours of FPP but it was a beauty 

The projects list was becoming longer and longer, the fabric deliveries bigger and my machine was starting to be a little workhorse, I spoiled it with extra feet, rulers, extension tables etc but at the end of the day it was a basic machine and it was limiting how far I could go. My mum bought me a second hand husqvarna designer diamond and I named him Neil (as he was a diamond), I used him to free motion quilt a Celtic knot table runner (such a shock when Missouri Star asked to feature it on their Instagram) I had been making on my brother and wow I actually could see what I had been missing! So David (the brother machine… named after my brother!) was relegated to the cupboard once more, I was still stuck indoors in shielding and it was now April 2021.

Neil was all set for his first go at free motion
The finished runner featured by MSQC

My friend was about to become a Granma for the first time and as Star Wars fans I had to send a special gift for baby, so I purchased embroidery patterns from stitchtopia and created a play at quilt that was sent to the other side of the world and is now in use ever day.

Never too young to start learning about the force 

I joined some quilt alongs, I watched a lot of you tube videos, I read books, I joined one of Angela Walters free motion challenges and by the time of writing this I have actually completed 40 quilts, have several in the works and started writing my own patterns and designing my own quilts on EQ8. I have found something that occupies my time in a positive and productive way, doesn’t stress me out and creates wonderful pieces to gift to others to create a legacy of my own.

When the cost of shipping the official Angela Walters panel was prohibitive the answer came from grunge… make your own. The skills learnt in this weekly free motion challenge were immense.
The finished challenge now graces my summer house wall.

My quilts now reside in USA, New Zealand and far and wide in the UK and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon! These pictures are only a snapshot of all I have learnt but more will come in future blogs! I’ve learnt that free motion is my thing, I love it! I’ve started experimenting with graffiti quilting and using colours to create patterns in negative space. My pace has had to slow recently as I have gone back to teaching in a school having finally been released from shielding, but now I am working on a pattern for a quilt that will showcase the Aurora borealis and some tiny piecing. Watch this space!

Dogs in sweaters using more of the Harry Potter fabric…. I’m sure it’s multiplying!
Zen Chics Spring in Paris quilt along and some more free motion o practice in the negative space.
I loved MSQCs All Stars  Quilt but the shipping to the UK meant I had to source the fabrics in the UK and so began the Alison Glass collection thanks to Lovely Jubbly and Oh Sew Sweet at the Hut.
Libs Elliot Sand from Debs fabrics and more of the Harry Potter fat quarters … have they all gone yet? 

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