Archive | March 2016

Life on the edge

‘Normal’ people have normal reactions to what life throws at them. The pain of losing your best friend whether through death or other circumstances, perhaps the anger felt at having your house broken into, the bottom of the pit feeling when a relationship breaks up and you didn’t see it coming. We have all felt these feelings of loneliness, distrust, anger, being disheartened; you don’t understand what you did to deserve having what life is throwing at you and quite often they seem to come in 3’s. Don’t ask me why they just do. Feelings of sadness are normal and can last quite some time. But you know deep down, rationally, that things will get better, you will once again survive and you have family and friends to help you get through. Perfect scenario.

For a person with deep emotional problems, anxiety and depression they don’t need catastrophic events to set them off. Sometimes it can be the way someone spoke to you, or the way ( you think) someone ignored you at the shopping centre or the fact that they haven’t made contact with you for some time. God forbid they have a life… For a fragile person these small things can build up and seem insurmountable. If the person was already feeling overwhelmed with life the simple act of losing their car keys can set the day up to be a rough one. Then as each small inconvenience or problem pops up as they do through your day the fragile person see these small events as catastrophic. To ‘normal’ people the fragile person seems a little ‘over the top’, overreacting, you know, when you feel like telling someone to take a chill pill. To a normal person, the fragile persons reactions seem way out of context to the situation and in truth they are, but not if you are that fragile person. To you your whole world is imploding and you feel like you are drowning.

For many of you, you will not understand these feelings and how lucky you are. I hope you never have to deal with the Black Dog of depression either personally or through a friend or family member. But for the person suffering, they are constantly on the edge. They want to be happy and live a full life just like everyone else. They look at people and wonder what is actually going on in their lives. Are they putting on a brave face just like you? Do they just pretend to be happy, the old fake it till you make it just like you? How does one be happy? What the heck is happy anyway?

I’ve started writing todays blog to distract myself and to help me put life into perspective. It’s open, it’s raw and it’s real please don’t judge me on this. I’m too honest for my own good, but writing always helps. I can’t actually talk to anyone about how I feel…….they’d think I was crazy……lol

Having struggled since last October with a depression that just won’t seem to lift I found myself at the very bottom of the barrel today. I have managed to have a shower, but haven’t managed to eat anything today, it’s now 4pm and I’ve only just had my first cuppa of the day, I feel like I’m in shutdown. Again I’ve had next to no sleep, which normally I can cope with, but not today. A good nights sleep would be more than 2 hours straight, I haven’t managed that since before October. I can’t really blame the medical profession as I’ve been so bad that I find it too difficult to go out. So a trip to the doctors is a living nightmare, I did however get myself there to ask for help and I’ve been on a waiting list for counselling for the past 6 weeks, I’m guessing they’re pretty busy with others just like me, but in the mind of a depressive person who catastrophises things I see this as I’m less important than others. ( in my right mind I know this is not true, there could be many reasons for no contact, yes they may be extremely busy, they may have lost my forms, I could ring and find out but I haven’t as I really don’t want to leave the safety of my home to go visit anyone). There are days like today that you feel like you are the least important person in the world. You don’t even like yourself so how could anyone possible love or care for you. Today people, you are my counselling session! Well actually this blank page is my counselling session. I’m hoping to bring some raw awareness into the mind of someone in crisis, I actually don’t want and am definitely not looking for sympathy or comments and I don’t want to alarm anyone, I am safe, I have made sure of that by writing this.

Getting back to normal people. When a normal person loses a pet, they do all they can to find them. Put up notices, walk the neighbourhood, check the lost and found and they have the normal feelings of anxiety wondering what’s happened to their beloved pet, they may grieve and they may be sad for a time. But in the end their response is normal. My response as I’m sure others with depression will recognise is one of a catastrophic nature. Having already lost one pet to a snake bite just over 12 months ago, my immediate feeling was why me? Why can’t I have a cat? When she hadn’t turned up for dinner or breakfast my immediate thought was she’s dead. She would have been home for a feed if she could, so she’s definitely dead. From there was the slide to the bottom of the pit. Actually I didn’t have far to fall, as I said it’s been pretty rough since before Christmas and seeing as no one loves me anyway, no one would miss me if I was gone. (Another catastrophic unreal thought) Yes I’ve got a husband, but most husbands remarry pretty quickly ( Over generalise get) and for my poor husband it would be a relief not having to deal with this shit daily. ( that’s the thought, but the reality is quite different) There’s the kids, but they have their own lives and partners, I have nothing left to impart on them ( the thought, once again, not the reality, parents are supposed to stick around long enough to annoy the kids and spoil the grandkids). There are grandkids, but they actually don’t know me other than being a face on a screen as they live overseas. ( the thought, but not the reality, they know me, they love me and all because we have such wonderful technology) Life would move on and my being would soon disappear. 

Can you see how stupid that all sounds? It’s what I was feeling, thinking and believing, but because I’ve had some pretty major counselling over the years I can see the other side, I can see I would be missed, I can see my thinking pattern for what it is. But for a fragile person, when you are feeling so, so low, it doesn’t take too much more to act, a split second decision to step out in front of that oncoming bus or train, to ram the car into the nearest big gum tree, to take that bottle of pills you have been saving. You don’t have the energy or inclination to shower, brush your hair, eat. A quiet dark place is where you feel safe, you don’t have to talk to anyone, you can just be. There is such a fine line between life and death. For a person with severe depression you stand on that edge and when life is throwing its curve balls, you try to duck and weave like everyone else but you just don’t have the coping skills like everyone else and someday maybe one those balls is going to hit you square on and knock you down and you react and make that one final mistake that devastates all you have left behind.

I’ve ducked a ball today, but only because I take regular medication, have previously had counselling that taught me some skills to really analyse my thinking and to recognise them for what they are. I will get up again, I will fight on again, I will keep ducking and weaving because I love my family, they keep me grounded, they give me hope and although most days I don’t understand why they love me, deep down inside I know they do. They know the real me, the one with all the scary bits and they still love me. They’re pretty amazing people and there my people. How blessed am I!

If you are struggling today and need some help and don’t know where to turn here are a couple of starting points. There is help out there, we just have to reach out.

What started this today was our 6 month old kitten went missing, she’s still not back and it’s been over 24 hours so I am absolutely heartbroken. She showed me such great affection and she was such a little character. But honestly as sad as the situation is, it is what it is and it’s not something I should be contemplating suicide over. But this combined with 3 or 4 other situations I’m ‘dealing’ with had tipped me over and for that split second and that’s all it takes, I was one of those people standing on the edge.
Our little Phoebe – 6 months old, March, 2016.


EDITED at 9.15pm

Some 28 hours after Phoebe went missing she waltzed though the door like nothing had happened. She wasn’t hungry, so somebody had fed her. But she was terribly happy to see us and extremely smoochie. We’re both so happy she turned up again.

So you can see how your thinking and your perception can screw up a whole day all for nothing really. What a difference a few hours makes. Thanks for listening. Sue

This entry was posted on March 30, 2016. 5 Comments

Back to Basics in patchwork

The title says it all really, getting back to basics.  It was bought to my attention recently that we know what we know and just presume others know what we know….confused….lol?

In the following posts I will talk about things us more experienced quilters take for granted. We can babble on about Fat Quarter’s, Fat 1/8’s, binding, paper piecing, vliesofix, applique, BOMS etc. Stashes and  to some people it all sounds like gobbledie gook.

So I thought I would explain a few things over a few of the next posts.

So where do you start explaining patchwork terminology? Here is some of the terminology and some short explanations.

1⁄4in Foot This is a special foot for your machine. When you have the edge of the foot on the edge of the fabric it will give an accurate 1⁄4in seam. If your machine does not have one you will be able to measure from where you needle comes down and perhaps lay some masking tape down as a guide for your fabric. If your machine does not have a 1/4 ” foot you will be able to get one, even a generic one to fit.


A design made by cutting shapes from one fabric and sewing to the top of another fabric. Fusible web, which is like baking paper with a thin layer of glue on one side. There are a number of brands. To use you trace your design on the paper side (in reverse) roughly cut around the shape, place this on the wrong side of your fabric, quickly press (only long enough to melt the glue) then cut out on your drawn line. Now you  remove the paper and lay your piece onto your fabric within the design area and again press just long enough for the glue to take hold, then stitch using a buttonhole, blanket stitch, or even a zigzag will also work well.


The American term for tacking, this is mainly used in hand quilting. Today we mainly pin our quilts ready for stitching or if you’re like me, wrap them up and send them to a good friend with a long arm quilting machine…


The fabric that forms the bottom layer or back of a quilt


The American term for wadding. Wadding comes in many forms. Wool, Wool/Polyester mix, Cotton, Silk, Bamboo to name a few. Again there are many, many on the market. Once you find your favourite you’ll stick with it.


The diagonal of a woven fabric. This has the greatest amount of stretch


A narrow strip of fabric, single or folded, used to enclose the raw edges of the quilt top, wadding and backing once your quilt is fully quilted


The pattern units that repeat across the quilt top

Chain (String) Piecing

A method of sewing a number of units at a time, thus saving time and thread

Charm Quilt

A quilt made with every piece from a different fabric. Usually all the pieces are the same shape as well such as squares or triangles

Colour Wheel

A tool used to help you plan your colours in the quilt

Colour Value

The darkness or lightness of a colour


A square used to join short pieces of sashing at the corners of blocks

Cutting Mat

A special mat used with a rotary cutter and ruler to protect the work surface

Design Wall

A flannel or wadding panel on the wall. Used for laying out fabrics and standing back and checking the appearance. There is no need to use pins, the patches just adhere lightly to the flannel and can be moved easily

Echo (Outline) Quilting

Repeated rows of quilting a measured distance from each row, the machine foot can be used as a measure. Often used with appliqué


Extra embroidery or trims added after a quilt is finished

Fat Eighth

Half a fat quarter of fabric giving a small rectangle either 9 x 22in or 11 x 18in

Fat Quarter

A piece of fabric that is cut 50cm (in the UK) or 18in along the selvedge and then cut again in half across the width to give a piece approx 18 x 22in (slightly larger if cut in the UK)

Feed Dogs

The part of your sewing machine that moves the base layer of fabric forwards as you stitch

Four Patch

A block composed of four patches or one that fits within a 2 x 2 grid

Free Motion Quilting

An advanced method of quilting with lowered feed dogs and where your hands move the fabric to create the pattern

Fusible Web

A paper based glue that is ironed onto the reverse of your fabric, often used with appliqué


The lengthwise and crosswise threads on a cotton fabric

Hanging Sleeve

A tube of fabric applied to the top back of a quilt, so that it can be displayed on a wall or at a quilt show

Half Square Triangle

A block that is square in shape but is divided on one diagonal to give two equal triangles


A small hand held frame used for hand or machine quilting

In the Ditch

Quilting that is close to the seam lines of your blocks. traditionally it would be the side of the seam that did not have the seam allowances lying behind and thus would be lower and in the ditch


Every quilt should have a label sewn on the back giving details such as name of quilter, date and reason made


The process of putting the three layers of a quilt together


The spring or fluffiness of the wadding – more loft equals more height

Machine Quilting

Stitching by machine that holds the three layers of a quilt together


Several pieces of fabric cut and then sewn together to produce a pattern

Quarter Square Triangle

A block that is square in shape but is divided on two diagonals to give four equal triangles

Quilt Top

The top layer of the quilt. It can be pieced, appliquéd, or a combination of the two


The sewing used to secure the layers together; it can be by hand or by machine

Right Side

The side of the fabric that you wish to appear on the top of your quilt. For design reasons some quilters use the wrong side occasionally if it gives the right colour value

Rotary Cutter

A circular, rotating cutter used with a cutting mat and ruler to safely cut layers of fabric accurately


An acrylic measuring tool used with the rotary cutter, usually marked in 1⁄8in. There are many specialist manufacturers such as Creative Grids in the UK who have developed a wide range of rulers


See Layering


Strips of fabric that are used to divide blocks when the quilt top is joined into one piece


The point where two pieces of fabric are sewn right sides together

Seam Allowance

The distance between the cut edge of the fabric and the sewn line. Quilters usually use a 1⁄4in seam allowance, although metric allowances can range from 0.5cm to 0.75 depending on your country, but I would guess 99% of quilters do use the imperial measurements.


The edge of the fabric when it is on the bolt. This has a slightly tighter weave and should be cut off before you start measuring your pieces


The arrangement of blocks in the quilt top

Slip Stitch

A small, almost invisible, stitch used to secure a folded edge to a flat surface. Commonly used to finish the binding on the back of a quilt

Strip Piecing

Joining one or more strips together and then cutting them apart crossways to create new units


A means of securing the layers of a quilt together loosely, using large stitches and thin thread


Used to protect your fingers or thumb when hand sewing

Top Stitching

A row of stitiching often with larger stitches. Used as a decorative finish often near the edge of a garment or bag


A method of quilting, using small stitches and knots, with threads that can be left decoratively on the front or on the back of the work

Wadding (Batting)

The filling that goes in between the quilt top and the back to create warmth and depth to the quilt

Walking Foot

A special foot that is used when quilting to push the top and bottom layers of the quilt together at the same time. Is believed to give a more even result and can also be used for piecing borders


When buying fabrics most fabric stores sell minimum quantities of anywhere from 20 to 30cm pieces.

As a consumer I can understand you may only want to purchase 10cm but from a business point of view there does need to be a minimum to help cover costs such as payroll and rent. If everyone was purchasing 10cm strips turning over fabric in a quilt shop would take forever and would mean the shop owner was not able to purchase fresh new ranges for you to use. The shop owner is there after all to make a living so don’t be too offended when they insist on minimums.

When buying fabrics you can buy straight off the bolt, you can buy fat quarters, fat eights, layer cakes (10″ squares), charm squares (5″ squares), jelly rolls (2 1/2 ” strips, usually between 40 – 42 of them ) and many more ‘terms’.

Layer Cakes are 10″ squares showcasing a range of fabrics, there is usually around 42 pieces in each layer cake yielding approximately 2 1/2 metres. Layer Cakes were originally (I believe) bought out by Moda Fabrics, they are also available from other suppliers and may be known as 10″ Stackers, Tonga Treat Squares and 10″ Squares.

layer cake

Jelly Rolls   these are 2 1/2″ strips, again generally 42 pieces of a coordinated range.


Dessert Rolls  Manufactured by Moda Fabrics, Dessert Rolls contain 20 different fabrics from a collection cut into 5″ x 44″ strips.


Honeycombe Hexagons  Moda introduced Honeycomb Hexagons. These are collections of 6″ hexagons. Each Honeycomb hexagon measures 6″ from point to opposite point, with a horizontal measurement of 5 1/4″ and there are 40 coordinating fabrics.


Charm Squares  Charm packs are one of the smallest and least expensive specialty cut. Their popularity stems from the fact that they are affordable, easy to use, and the size is very common in quilting. Charm Packs typically include one square of every fabric within a collection so the number of pieces included varies. The size of charm packs may also vary slightly by manufacturer. For instance, RJR Fabrics cuts their Charm Packs to 5.5″ x 5.5″, Moda is 5″ x 5″. But they are a great little buy.


We also have mini charms which are 2 1/2″ square and many more… desert rolls, mini jelly rolls, mini layer cakes… what will they come up with next.

For any newbies it’s a minefield of information and almost like learning a second language.

When I fist started out I had no idea there was a difference between the words patchwork and quilting… well, duh… there is. I describe these words now as: Patchwork is the process of sewing pieces of fabric together to make your quilt tops. Quilting is the process of sewing the 3 layers of your quilt together. Being the quilt top, the batting or wadding (whichever you wish to call it) and your quilt backing fabric. Quilting can be straight forward stitching in the ditch (ditch being where your two pieces of fabric have been joined and you now stitch over that stitching) or you may stipple quilt, which is a series of swirls and curls as per this picture or for the clever monkey’s among us there are many, many designs that can be used. See examples below.

          Stitch in the Ditch                                   Stipple Quilting


Feathered design and other ‘fillers’


So, this is just a small part of quilting. There are many techniques both in patchwork and quilting. There is a whole world to explore and learn. You can take specialty classes, you can teach yourself (YouTube is a great resource), or you can band together with other like minded people in quilting groups and learn from them. The patchwork family is large, loving, supportive, generous and a whole lot of wonderful. If you are looking to meld into a community then join a patchwork group, if you’re looking for friends, join a patchwork group.

Happy Stitching



So hands up, who knows their needles?

Well if you’re like me as long as it’s not broken or too bent it’s working….right? Well perhaps not. If you want the best stitching for you project you need great tools and your needles be they hand or machine are an integral part of your sewing kit.

First for sewing needles. The following information is thanks to and you can click through to find out more on their site.


It helps to understand the different parts of a home sewing machine needle.

  • The shank is the part of the needle that fits into your sewing machine, with the flat side to the back.
  • The blade is what determines the needle size. (For example, a size 75 needle has a blade that is .75 mm in diameter.)
  • The shaft is the “body” of the needle, and the groove that runs the length of the shaft holds the needle thread. Did you know that the diameter of the thread you are using should take up no more than 40% of the groove?
  • The point and tip of the needle refer to the size, shape and length — all of which vary based on the type of needle.
  • The scarf of the needle is an indentation on the backside that allows the bobbin hook to smoothly grab the thread under the sewing machine throat plate to create a proper stitch.

Needle types

There are three main types of needles that are used for the majority of sewing, as well as many specialty needles.

  • Universal needles have a slightly rounded tip, and this general purpose needle should be used on wovens as well as some sturdy knits.
  • Jersey needles have a medium ballpoint tip designed especially for knit fabrics because it slips between the knit fibers and does not break or damage them while sewing.
    • Stretch needles, often confused with Jersey needles, are also a medium ballpoint tip, but these have a special eye and scarf that are designed for extremely stretchy fabrics and elastic. Swimwear is an ideal application for this type of needle

In addition to the three most widely used needle types, there are also specialty needles for sewing with denim and leather, sewing suede, topstitching, needlepoint and embroidery, along with specific needles for quilting. Remember to select the needle first based on fabric type or usage, and then determine the correct size based on the weight of the fabric and the size of the thread you will be using.

There are many, many more. Here’s a link to Schmetz for a guide to their needles and their purposes. Click Here.

Close Up on Sewing Needle in Machine

Needle sizing

There are two needle sizing systems: American and European. American needle sizes range from 8 to 19, and European sizes range from 60 to 120. The larger the number, the larger the blade of the needle. Often you will see both sizing numbers on the needle package, such as 60/8 and 70/10.

Home sewing machine needles are also classified as the 130/705 H system, which means they are for use in home sewing machines rather than industrial machines. That designation means the needles have a flat shank and a scarf.

Needle lifespan

Needles are one of the least expensive components in a sewing project, so feel free to change your needle with each new project. Sewing machine needles only have a lifespan of 6 to 8 hours of sewing time, but that can be even less if the fabric is particularly tough to sew. In short, change your needles often! Whatever you paid for your fabric, it was certainly more than the cost of a needle. It’s not worth the risk of damaging your project by using a dull needle.

Mmm, so I guess that means don’t just wait for the needle to break……lol. I used to always get confused as to what size needles I needed to use, not really understanding the needle sizing on the packaging such as

Hand stitching needles

I have my favourites that I use for just about everything and they don’t have to be the most expensive available, but you do want a good quality. Don’t go using a literal ‘crow bar’ that’s going to leave a large hole in your fabric. The needle you choose should be (for embroidery or hand stitching) sharp and the shaft should be think enough to pass through your fabric allowing enough space for the size of the thread you are using to pass through easily. The aim is to not drag your thread through, thus destroying the actual thread.

There is literally a needle for every job. I probably use embroidery needles the most with my work, also known as crewel needles. They have sharp points and slightly elongated eyes. I especially look for needles that have larger eyes, since the ageing process has started and my eyes don’t work as well. These types of needles are used widely throughout embroidery work where piercing your fabric is necessary.

For tapestry, drawn thread work and counted cross stitch you will need tapestry needles these have long eyes and are blunt as you don’t want to be splitting the fabric such a aida cloth when using. Don’t get these confused with Chenille needles, they look similar but chenille needles have a sharp point, these are used for crewel work and wool embroidery or basically any surface work where a longer eye (which holds a thicker thread) is desired.

Straw or Milliners needles these needles are made with the eye and the shaft made the same size so from one end of the needle to the other its equal in thickness, which is what is recommended for doing French and bullion knots. Mind you, I quite often cheat and use a normal embroidery and make a colonial knot in lieu of French knots. Naughty I know, but I was put on earth to break all the rules.

Now here’s where machine and hand stitching needles change. The sizing is opposite. Machine needles, the higher the number the larger the blade. Hand sewing, the higher the number the smaller the needle.

Threaded Embroidery NeedleThe thickness of your thread or yarn will determine the size of your needles.  For example, if using a wool embroidery yarn you will need a much larger needle for the thread to pass through your fabric, alternatively if using a fine sild thread you’ll need a much finer needle. Remember the needle needs to be large enough to carry your thread through your fabric without destroying your thread on the way through. The thread should just follow the needle, not have to be ‘dragged’ through.

Japanese hand-made needleAs you would imagine needles are made on machines. When the machine punches out the hole for the eye of the needle it is actually smaller on one side than the other. So here’s a tip, if you’re having trouble threading your needle from one side try the other.

I have already shared this tip on my Facebook page but did you know you aren’t supposed to lick your thread when you thread your needle?  The primary reason for this is that the wet thread can cause the inside of the eye to rust, which can quickly fray your embroidery threads while stitching. .

You can find further information for hand embroidery needles here on Needle ‘n Thread!

 So I hope this has given you a little insight into the business of needles. Their history is interesting and lets face it we just couldn’t live without them and there are so many different brands. As I said earlier you don’t have to be using the most expensive. Find needles of good quality for a reasonable price and you’re set.
Happy Stitching
Mallee Country Craft.