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Welcome to the Modern Quilt Group December 2017 Newsletter

header december 17
Looking forward to the New Year. Time to look back on the best of this year and move onward.

A word (or two) from the Editor

In Denial: I can't put if off any longer, I finally have to admit that Christmas (with a capital 'C' now) is nearly upon us and I had better get all those half-finished presents completed and packed before I am overtaken by events. I do like to make most of my gifts, which is a lovely, rosy-glowing thought in July, but as usual the 'last minute queen' has stepped in and, no doubt, I will still be finishing the last bit of binding on Christmas Eve surrounded by wrapping paper and sticky tape. It will miraculously all get done, it always does, but sometimes I wish I was better at planning - or at least sticking to the plan I've made.

I am keeping things brief this month since I am sure, like me, you have far too much to do. I hope you still manage to set aside a little time to do some calming sewing, or perhaps to treat yourself to a quilting book to relax with. If you do come across a good book, we will be starting a book review column in the New Year and would love to receive any input from readers. Frohliche Weihnachten to you all, HB

Anything you want to share with the MOD-Q group? Contact me on

Helen's Ramblings

So, it's almost the time for wrapped presents and too-many-sprouts; but also a good time to add up the year's achievements and look forward to the New Year, New Ideas, New Projects. I find this time of year very creative, and I make my best new work in the winter. This year's projects include a whole lot more patterns, both for me and for Modern, lots of new quilts, blocks and finished Quilts for Siblings Together, and maybe a good deal of sitting-by-the-fire. I do like a little handwork, and I have treated myself to the Willyne Hammerstein books for some relaxing handwork this winter.. (go on, look them up, scare yourself) HH

Contact me on uk

Follow the Dots 2

QUILT STORIES: Headline News

Follow the Dots
by Debbie Jeske

The fabric for this quilt was chosen way before the design was conceived. It was back in August that my desk calendar featured the teal and yellow combination that caught my attention, and after some research trying to find matches, I settled on Kona Cotton Solid in Everglade with Painter's Palette Solid in Lemon Ice. Fast forward a couple of months to when I traveled to California on retreat, and purchased Maria Shell's Improv Patchwork: Dynamic Quilts Made with Line & Shape to read on the way down. At retreat I was then able to begin exploring the two together, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Follow the Dots 3

Basically, I experimented with several of the techniques in the book, the first being improv dots. They made me very happy, and I just made more and more until I was ready to move on to something else.

Next up were the lattice checks - the yellow-framed 'square' on the right side below and 'rectangle' in the lower center. These were fun too, and I was so glad I switched up the fabrics to highlight the yellow a bit more.

Lastly were the 'tracks', such as the piece in the lower left corner above. After making the large track near the top of the quilt, I realized I really liked this technique in skinnier strips, but still, they're good no matter what the size.

Putting the blocks together into a quilt top was of course, improvisational, and it only made sense that the quilting be the same. Using both Aurifil 50wt 1125 (Medium Teal) and 2115 (Lemon), I quilted one section at a time, choosing the design as I went, stitching fairly densely in most areas. Where I densely quilted on one color but not the other, it made the contrasting bits pop.

A faced binding seemed an appropriate finish to the quilt, which ended up 32" x 34".

What was satisfying about this project was the sense of exploration every step of the way. Beginning with the dots, I let them lead me on, step by step. I've wondered whether or not I should have left more breathing room between the sections, but then again, why? Those kinds of wonderings are just part of the process, and I'm happy enough to let them be.

CLICK HERE to visit Debbie's blog "A Quilter's Table"

MODERN GROUP CO-ORDINATOR: Looking for leadership!

by Marion McCrindle

All good things come to an end and after three years of being a Specialist Group Co-ordinator it is time for the Co-ordinator to get back to some serious quilting! However, that then leaves a gap. And that is where you come in.

We are now seeking a Co-ordinator for the Modern Quilt Group from the end of April 2018 - April 2021. I realise that following Helen Howes is a major challenge but she has built a great committee so you would not be alone. We have a revised job description which we are currently finalising in order that you can scope the requirement. There is no reason why we couldn't have a job share, something that has worked well in one of the Regions already.

But we do need a named leader and without someone willing to do this then there is a serious risk that the modern group would cease to exist which would be dreadful given how hard folks have worked to establish the group and considering the enormous success it has enjoyed - not least at last year's FOQ.

So have a ponder; ask the questions you need to ask without obligation. But, if there is the remotest chance you could be interested, donŐt leave it to someone else to step up...that may not happen! You often don't know what you are capable of until you try and there are plenty of folks who will work with you to ensure you succeed.

Please contact Helen Howes ( uk) the current postholder to find out what is involved or if you prefer a less "up front" approach, contact her for the Job Description and it will be forwarded.

fabric cow bowls

FREE PATTERN: Fabric 'Cow' Bowls

CLICK HERE to visit the patterns page

sewing machine?

SEWING MACHINES FOR BEGINNERS (and more advanced students!)

by Helen Howes NEW SERIES: PART 3 - Picking Threads

Now, you can hand-sew with almost anything you can push through a needle's eye, but sewing machines like Good Thread. It was the invention of the sewing machine that really pushed thread manufacturers to improve thread quality, and to standardise the weights and types of threads. More on that in a moment..

Now, for almost every sewing purpose, there is the Correct Thread, and that usually does not mean "all-purpose", because this is usually polyester. Now, don't get me wrong, polyester thread is fine for most general sewing, and if you plan to sew synthetic fabrics (I sew a lot of ripstop nylon) you really want a poly thread. It's cheap, easily available, and comes in about 4 million colours. But, and it's a huge and bumptious but, it's not really any good for proper patchwork. It is a bit stretchy. You don't want stretchy. It's a bit strong, which may not be ideal. And it melts when ironed if you have the heat up high. Now, this is a disaster. Spend all day piecing, then dissolve the thread with a moment's inattention? Ouch! (Then, there's Rayon. Don't Go There). Yes, some of the poly threads out there are delightful, but if you want to use them, put them on top of your quilting, not inside your patchwork, please.

Cotton threads are wonderful. There are hundreds of brands, colours to delight the eye, reels from 50 to 50,000 metres in length, dozens of weights. Variegated threads are just sooo nice..

Now, with cotton thread, you will usually see a number, like 60, 50, 40, 36. There are others. These come from an ancient method of winding a set weight of thread and measuring the length - the thinner the thread, the bigger the number. This is a simplification, as the thickness is also affected by how many strands (or plies) are twisted together to make the thread. However, in essence, for the purposes of this sort of work, the bigger numbers are good for piecing, and the smaller for quilting. Poly and other threads have different systems. I don't understand them..

When choosing a thread for your work, first look at weight and colour. I use a lot of slightly grungy colours for piecing, grey, beige, dirty blue, plus black, red, cream and others. If I plan to make a quilt largely in one colour I will match the thread, otherwise a pale or darker grey does most things nicely. For quilting I much prefer my threads to have a visible presence. If you wish to modify the colour a little on a quilt a darker or lighter thread can make a huge difference. And there have been some fantastic quilts made as whole-cloth with different colours of threads for the image.

Always make a test sample with any new thread. Use the fabric and wadding you plan to use for the project, check the tension and the effect before you launch into the Real Thing..

And, match your needle to the thread. Heavier threads need thicker needles, and finer, thinner. If you use a needle that is much too big or small the stitches will be poorly-made and the thread may fray and break. My rule of thumb-and-finger? If the needle is really hard to thread, use a bigger size, if really easy, try smaller. And the finer and more closely-woven your fabric, the finer and thinner your threads and needles need to be...

Crack Cocaine for Quilters. Be warned: variegated cotton threads are addictive!


To man the Quilters' Guild stand at the SPRING KNITTING AND STITCHING SHOW at Olympia 1st - 4th March 2018.

If you are visiting the show and can spare some time, please contact Jane Steward on

modern at FOQ17


It is quite hard to generate enough copy to produce a newsletter every month, and I am sure you will be getting bored with seeing the same few names cropping up over and over, but the truth of it is that unless we have contributions from other readers it comes down to the sames old few!

I would welcome input from fellow group members - photos, words, ideas or questions - a big part of ModQ is sharing and teaching. Please send anything you would like to share to

Anything you want to share with the MOD-Q group? Contact me on

Eternal triangle


Click through to the Challenge 2018 page on the MOD-Q website for more information and dates for next year's challenge FOOLING THE EYE, as well as reminders for the return of past challenge quilts (yes, HH still has some from 2016!) Also we would like next year's challenge to go on the road if anyone has ideas of suggested venues they would be appreciated.

CLICK HERE to see the latest crop of pictures and to read all about it