Needlework Counting Pins

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Over the past few months, I have had so much pleasure to be able to make and offer some truly unique needlework notions to you all. I have loved the part of spending time making them and ensuring that they are all different. It really is lovely to be able to work with beautiful needlework notions while we do our needlework and it is even more special knowing that they are handmade, not mass produced in a factory somewhere.

So far, I have added Thread conditioner made from 100% Beeswax to help keep your metallic thread from getting tangled or knotted. I have also made needle minders and scissor fobs.

Our latest range of needlework notions have just been released on our website –

Needlework Counting Pins.

Counting Pins

These are such truly stunning pieces and look too decorative to be practical. Yet, I assure you, they are totally practical – they just have the bonus to look extremely decorative.

So what are counting pins? And what are they used for?

Well …. If you do Cross Stitch or Blackwork, then these are the tools that you will be looking for in your needlework work basket, especially when you need to start counting squares. Basically these tools are needed when you need to count out stitches on your AIDA or evenweave linen fabric.

Really old cross stitch stitched by my grandmother for when I was born

I have been doing cross stitch since I was 7 years old (that’s too long ago) and I was taught to do cross stitch by my mother who had grown up doing it. I remember she taught me how to follow the chart, find the middle point, count how many squares to the bottom of the chart along the vertical midline and then count out to the right to find the starting point of where I needed to start stitching with my needle and thread.

I then had to count exactly the same squares/stitches on my fabric. At times it could be trial and error, finding the correct starting point and lots of recounting. There were no such things as counting pins to help you keep track. I usually used my needle that was threaded up, ready to start and just hope that I didn’t use count mid-way while counting down from the midpoint of the fabric and then out to the right to find where my first stitch needed to be.

I can remember that over the years, I had miscounted and a few of my pieces were really close to the left hand side as I had miscounted.

If you are cross stitchers, you are probably lost as to the way I am counting to get my starting point at the bottom right side of the piece. It was the way I was shown by my mother, and she was Dutch. She had been shown how to do cross stitch from her mother, my grandmother and I guess it was the way that they did cross stitch. Basically you started from the bottom right hand side of the design, working your way upwards and across to the left until you had completed the design. It seemed a logical process to me (I guess it being the only way I was taught). The stitches were also worked in columns going from right to left. You went up the column working the right slanting stitch and then coming back down the column to complete the cross stitches. It meant the needle was always facing the same way and it was easy to start the next column to the left of the column just completed. It was when I moved here and brought the English Cross Stitch magazines that I discovered that cross stitch was worked completely differently.

Starting to stitch at the bottom right hand corner and working top and across to the left to complete the design

I did so many cross stitches as I was growing up, working from the Dutch cross stitch charts that my mother had sent over from Holland by her family. Cross stitch was still relatively new in New Zealand, and I cannot recall seeing kits, patterns promoted while I was growing up in the 70’s.

I remember my first job after I left school. It has an old department store, elegant but showing the wears of age, neglect and of times gone by. It had started as a family store back in the early 1900’s – grand wooden staircase going up to the first floor which was for Women’s wear – outerwear and underwear. Ground floor was for the menswear, haberdashery, and fabric dept (where I worked). There was a huge cellar that went underneath the entire store, I hated having to go down there to get extra stock, it really gave me the creeps! Who knew what lay in the depths of that cellar? Actually one year, staff found some forgotten stock which they used for an annual fashion show. It was a box of ‘fashionable’ swimwear (male and female) from the 1920’s.

The family had gone since sold it on to a local farming corporate business when I started there in the late 70’s after leaving school, but the old elegance was since visible, even though it was abit shabby. However, the wood panels and stained glass windows were still very visible and played an important role in the character of the building. My dept manager was a lovely elderly gentleman (past retirement when I started there in my teens) who had worked there from the early 30’s after leaving school when the family still owned it and could still remember the day of the Great Earthquake in 1931 and destroyed both neighbouring towns (Napier and Hastings). His stories of that day and how the store shook on its very foundations were fascinating. He had many other stories of the changes he had seen over the years. But more importantly, his knowledge of fabric and sewing will always stay with me, his words of wisdom still sound in my head at times. He was one of life’s true gentlemen and when I left the store to do other work, he wrote a glowing reference, which I still have today.

I have really got side-tracked writing about the department store when I was really discussing cross stitch patterns. I was saying that there was not a lot of interest in cross stitch in New Zealand…. Well the department store does play a part in it. I remember we had a sales rep come round and he was showing us some of the latest products to arrive in New Zealand …. All the way from Holland. They were cross stitch kits … a new arrival into the country. I remember my dept manager saying that he really didn’t think they would take off and he didn’t order any for the store …. But my eyes grew wide … I fell in love with one of the designs …. And it was in Dutch! The rep and my dept manager offered it to me at wholesale! I jumped at the offer … it was the first ever cross stitch I had brought and a kit with all the threads and fabric included! I felt so special! Still a huge expense and took over half of my weekly wage! My mother, however, gave me a stern talking too when I got home about spending so much money on needlework.

I worked on that cross stitch and loved creating each and every stitch. It was the largest piece I have even worked on, and it was my pride and joy. Would you believe that I still have that piece? It is framed and hangs on my landing and every time I look at it, I have so many memories …. How I came to get it, my first job after leaving school, the many, many months I worked on it and marvel on how it has survived all these years and travelled halfway round the world from New Zealand to Northern Ireland.

From that Dutch kit, I have completed numerous cross stitches since then and they have graced the walls of my home. Some have long gone, given away or never came with me from New Zealand. Even with the countless designs I have stitched over many, many decades, I can honestly say that I have never come across the latest notion that I have launched on the website. When I discovered and read up about them, I knew that I just had to have these handy wee tools. They are a complete game changer and makes it so easy to count and start your work in the correct place. Over the years I have used pins or needles to help me count, but I have found that they can slip out or you need to secure them over a couple of holes which can be confusing. Pins/needles can also be quite small and awkward to hold with your fingers while counting out squares on fabric.

These counting pins are larger, have an extremely sharp point, but also have a cap to place on the end to secure into the fabric so they don’t fall out and also to protect your fingers from the sharp points. With having beads etc at the top of the pin, it makes it easy to hold them while you are counting out the squares on the fabric.

So how do you use the counting pins?

I mentioned above that I had been taught to start stitching in the bottom right corner and work my way across to the left to complete the design. Many others start in the middle of the design and work their way out and away from the centre until the design is complete. Whatever way you start your cross stitch, you still need to do some counting, and this is where the pins come in handy.

Cross stitch design to be started

I started off a cross stitch design for Alyssa the other day. I am trying to encourage her to get into cross stitch and she chose this design of two foxes. I folded the AIDA fabric in half twice to find the mid-point on the fabric, so I knew where to start counting from. I found the middle point of the chart, well actually I looked to see how many squares there was in the design going down and across the chart. I halved those figures to get my counting figures for going down and to the right from the mid-point.

calculating the squares on the chart

I placed my first pin into the fabric which was the middle, taking the sharp point of the pin through to the back of the fabric and placed the cap onto the end of the pin so it was secure and would not fall out of the fabric.

So going from the mid-point on the fabric, I counted down 75 squares and placed a second pin into the fabric and secured it like the first pin. I now knew where the bottom of my design would finish.

Now counting to the right from the pin, I counted 65 squares and placed my third pin (green counting pin) into the fabric. I now had the far right bottom corner square placed on the fabric.

As I mentioned before, I had always been taught to start there (but there are always times when rules need to be adjusted) and I looked to see where the first actual stitch was on the chart to begin stitching. On checking the chart, I came to the decision that it was not practical to start at the bottom corner as there really were NO stitches to be made there. They started more in the middle of the chart to the right. That was no problem. I still had my middle pin secure in the fabric. So I started counting my 65 squares from the middle pin going to the right as I had done at the bottom. The green beaded pin is the outer right side of the design.

So now I had that marked, I was able to find the stitch that was the best starting point on the chart. This starting point is shown by the amber beaded pin just to the left of the green pin – 9 squares to the left of the outer right side and 1 square below the midway point. Since the counting pin is secure in the fabric, there was no fear that I would lose my starting point.

I remember in the past; I would find my starting point with my needle (as that is usually what I would have on hand as I was about to start stitching) and then had to remove my needle so I could thread it up with the correct thread colour. With no marker in the fabric it was so easy to lose the starting point, so I would sometimes wriggle my needle before removing it so it would make the hole larger, and it would be easy to spot (usually). Not good habits to have.

Starting to stitch

These counting pins are a game changer! I really don’t know how I managed without them for so long. I was actually wanting to start a new cross stitch just so I could use them! Rest assured, they are just not for starting a new project. Even while you are working on your cross stitch project, they are still very useful for counting. Remember the times you had to count out squares to go from one area that has been worked to a new area? There may be a big gap in the stitching as the fabric may be unstitched in the final design. I remember I have miscounted the squares to work a new area of stitches, only to discover further into the design, that I have miscounted by a square or so. It can be so frustrating! But these pins are handy for this, counting the squares and leaving them in the fabric until they are no longer needed. They even work great if you need to work a long line of stitches, just place the pin in where you need to finish up. You only need to count once and not worry about constantly having to count your stitches.

The pins are equally great for working on Blackwork designs. Basically, any needlework where you use either AIDA or evenweave fabric.

The hidden bonus of these notions? Well, they are decorative so make for truly stunning tools …. But …. When you aren’t using them for counting out your stitches on fabric …. They make for stunning shawl pins or just as a brooch to set off a jacket. They deserve to be shown off and not lie in your needlework basket. I love using mine to close my cardi which doesn’t have buttons or even to secure a shawl around my shoulders. They are basically dual purpose – handy needlework tools and decorative accessories for our outfits.

Using counting pin to keep cardigan closed

Quilter’s Handbook – Basic Reference Section

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I have written a couple of blog posts about getting my craft snug (and stash/materials) organised in the lead up to my latest release – The Quilter’s Handbook. I have gone over the first two sections in the handbook – Inventory Section and Planner/Journal Section. I hope you found those posts to be interesting and helped to encourage you to get more organised with your quilting area. If you didn’t get a chance to read them, please do.

Have you ever had a tension issue while sewing and completely forgot just how to fix the problem? Or maybe you have been stumped on how to cut the correct measurement of fabric pieces needed? You may feel completely confused when confronted with the names of fabric pre-cuts or quilting terminology or even wondered on just how big to make the quilt which is to go onto a particular sized bed, etc.

Well, the next section in the Quilter’s Handbook deals on just those issues. I have complied the most common issues that we all experience at some stage. Now you just need to refer to your handbook for quick reference, instead of having to try and find the answer online and never knowing exactly where to look. Why waste time searching while you could be spending that time quilting?

Basic Reference Section

So, just what is in this section?

I have designed a template that is all about our sewing machine. It has space to fill in all the details of our sewing machine – Brand, model, and the category group of the machine if applicable, along with any extra feet/tools you may have brought for your machine. I have found this handy as I have quite a selection of extra specialised feet for my machine. My machine is also quite a specialised machine, and it is in a certain category which is important for when I am wanting to order extra bobbins or feet for my machine. Without knowing this category, I could purchase the wrong foot/bobbins for my machine. I can assure you I have done exactly that in the past! With these details recorded in my handbook, I can now quickly double check what category I need to search for when purchasing extra parts for my machine. Not all machines will have this, but it is always handy to have that recorded somewhere that it is quick to double check.

I have included a section where you can write in all the extra tools and feet that you have purchased for your machine. I found this quite useful when I went through my pile of feet that came with the machine and that I have purchased along the way. I was now able to identify and write down what the feet where for. My next step is to sew a handy zipped bag to house the feet separately, along with any instructions sheets that came with them, so I can keep them safe and know exactly what they are used for. This is especially true for the feet that I wouldn’t use as often but still need to use on specialised sewing projects. I am still working on the perfect bag to keep them all where I can also label each compartment with the name of the foot!

There is space to record the contact details for the service technician that you may use for servicing/repairing your machine. You no longer need to search frantically for the contact number that you wrote down on a scrap piece of paper or wonder where you placed their business card …..

I have drawn up sections where you can write down the dates of when your machine was serviced, as well as the date when the bobbin area was last cleaned, and the needle changed.

If you hold more than one sewing machine, it is handy to have one for each of your machines. I have done one up for my Pfaff sewing machine but also plan on doing one up for my longarm machine so I can keep a record of all the extra tools and feet that I have purchased for the machine. It just helps for when I may want to purchase anything in the future and I know straight away what I have for the machines, instead of having to go and search through my box of tools or feet for the machines.

My Sewing Machine

How many of us shudder at the mere thought of having tension issues while we are sewing? We can be sewing quite happily only to discover that our sewing is not right, we either have loops on the top or bottom of our fabric and the stitching is not balanced. One pull of one of the threads and the whole stitching comes undone!

I know I really do run scared if the machine has any tension issues and I dread having to touch my tension dial! I seem to inwardly hope that I never have to fix any major tension issues. However, having issues with our stitching where the loops do not meet in the middle of the fabric layers does not instantly mean that we should fiddle with our dials! Before we go anywhere near our tension dials, there is so much more that we should check. The dials are what we check last, after we have go through and checked everything else!

This handy reference goes through what to check when our machine is giving us tension problems and once, we have eliminated all of those other possible issues, we can then start to adjust our tension dials.

However, I have always found it hard to know which way to move the dial – is it up or down the number range depending on if our tension is tight or loose? I also tend to forget how to work out from the way the thread shows on the fabric as to whether the tension is too loose or too tight. I need to have something visible in front of me to remind me.

I really do dread tension issues, and my longarm machine is very sensitive to having the correct tension to ensure that the stitching is perfect with no loops on the bottom or the top of the quilt. The stitching loops need to meet in the middle! I knew that I would have to overcome my fear of tackling and correcting tension and I had gotten to be quite good with ensuring the correct bobbin tension. The slightest things would throw it off, even were the tension would be off if the bobbin was not wound on with the correct tension of the thread going through the tension discs.

It seemed that my longarm decided that I needed to face my fears and conquer the fear of tension. Last August I was quilting a wholecloth quilt which required a lot of stitching as the design was the stitching! I was working to a deadline, and would you believe that my quilting had serious loops underneath! Half a day’s quilting took me over a day to unpick! I really needed to conquer and overcome my fear and be able to tackle and solve tension issues. I went through all the steps prior to attacking the tension dials. I kept on saying out loud ‘Loosey lefty / tighty righty’ – it certainly imbedded into my brain, and I learnt which way to tighten or loosen the tension dials. I must say that those couple of days of pure hell – stitching, unpicking, not so nice words, and going through all the tension steps – really helped me to overcome my fear of tension issues. I can not say that I will not shake with fear the next time I have a major tension issue, but I know that I can always refer back to my tension guide, take a deep breathe, grab Jack, and know that I can overcome my tension issues.

Sewing Machine Tension

When I am teaching workshops, I have often been met with bewildered looks at times when the pattern calls for cutting fabrics which may not be of the more common inch fraction measurements. We will all be familiar with the ¼”, ½” and ¾” measurements and able to find those with ease on the ruler. But there are times when the pattern calls for the less common fraction measurements – the ones that talk about eights or sixteenths. Where do we find those on the rulers?

This guide gives a visual guide to explain the fractions in inches and where to find those measurements on the ruler. More confusingly, those fractions may have several ways to write them. So this guide explains how to read and understand all those lines on the ruler between each inch.

Explanation of Inch Measures

Why is it that our quilting patterns all work in inches for cutting our fabric and yet the material lists are usually in metres and the fabric shops sell the fabric by the metre? I haven’t worked out the reason yet, and I don’t think I ever will.

Coming from New Zealand where everything is in metric – kilometres, kilos, centimetres, metres, etc it was quite alien to come to the UK and instead of driving in kilometres, I was doing it in miles! Yet I brought my meat/vegetables by the kilo or grams and the fabric was by the metre or half a metre.

It then got stranger when I starting to cut my fabric for making a quilt, my rulers were in inches and the cutting instructions talked about inches or parts of an inch! The seams were ¼”. It really was a mixed up world! Then there were times when we downloaded a pattern from the states and the material list was all in yards! Just how did a yard compare to a metre? I know that there is 100cm in a metre, but just how many inches are in a yard?

I have drawn up a couple of visual charts, so it is easy to see at a glance on converting yards to metres and inches to centimetres. Now you don’t have to go and google to find out.

In this reference, I have also included the approximate sizes of UK beds to help give you an idea on what size to make that quilt. It is easy to find quilt sizes online for the American beds, but they are different from the UK. Even New Zealand has different bed sizes from the UK, and I found it strange to learn that the UK does not have a Queen, but rather King or Super King!  

This table makes it easy to give you an approximate guideline on what size to make the quilt if it is to fit a certain bed size.

Conversion charts

When it comes to purchasing fabric for a certain project, it can also be daunting. You can go into a shop and purchase a metre or part of a metre of fabric, but what if you need to get a Fat quarter, or maybe a long quarter? Even worse, you may need to purchase a Layer cake, Honey bun or a jelly roll …. You would be forgiven if you suddenly thought that fabric purchasing just turned into some kind of cake eating spree. If you are new to quilting, all these lovely or weird sounding fabric terms can be daunting! Is a Fat quarter the same as a long quarter? Just what does it all mean?

I have drawn up a visual guide showing and explaining what the different fabric cutting terms mean and just how much fabric is involved in each cut. I have also written a guide to all the pre-cuts along with photos for each type. I knew that my personal collection of pre-cuts would come in handy – a photo shoot for the handbook. I am sure they enjoyed being taken out of the boxes that they had been thrown into and having the opportunity to see some daylight for photos. The most attention and handling they have received for quite a while I can assure you.

Pre cut fabric photo shoot

So with having some pre-cut fabrics like a layer cake or charm pack, you may want to create different cuts from the 10” or 5” fabric squares. I have compiled charts so you can see at a quick glance just how many 4”, 2” or how size squares you can get from the different precuts. Maybe you just what to know how many charm packs it takes to make a quilt? These handy charts will give you all the help you need by working the math’s out for you.

Guide to precuts

What if you are just at the start of your quilting or sewing journey. Do you find that there is quite a few strange terms and words that are used? It really does seems as though quilters have this secret language that needs to be used.

So to help de-code those strange sounding terms, I have compiled a list explaining the meanings for the more commonly used terms to help you break down that language and just be able to get down to the more important part – sewing and quilting.

Common quilting terms

What I like most with the Handbook is that you only need to purchase the parts that you would find useful, which is so much better than purchasing a prebound one where you have to have parts that you would never use.

For example, you may know what all the terms are and don’t need to have this reference, so there is no need to include it in your handbook. Maybe you are not interested in inch measurements or machine tension.

Basically you can pick and choose what you need in your basic reference section and make your own personalised handbook.

Handbook

Come back next time when I will discuss and look at the final section – Cheat Sheets Section. The section that gives you step by step instructions on how to make the more popular and commonly used units in quilting, along with a maths cutting chart so you can quickly refer to so you know what size fabric to cut for the finished sized unit that you are wanting …..

Quilter’s Handbook – Journal and Planner section

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As a crafter, I have so many projects on the go, waiting to be started or completed. In the previous 2 blog posts I have discussed about my notions and materials that are stored everywhere and this post is about keeping ourselves organised with planners and journals.

I do try to be organised and keep everything together, especially materials and notions for a particular craft all in one space. However, there are times where it is difficult to keep everything together in one place even though I now have a designated craft area. I seem to get overwhelmed with the amount of craft materials and notions I have collected/accumulated over the years and over the years have aften wished that I had an inventory of everything I have so that I can just go and look at the necessary inventory and know exactly where it is kept.

I am also a crafter that tends to have more than one project on at one time. I seem to get bored if I am on the one project all the time and depending on the way I feel at the time, I need to focus on a particular project – be it quilting/sewing, needlework, knitting, crocheting, or spinning.

I love being organised (but don’t manage to sometimes) and thrive on lists. I have found that there are times when I get overwhelmed by my sewing/quilting projects, the unknown growing mountain of unfinished projects and just what I need to get done. I have regretted making a quilt, gifting it, and not having a record of what it was, any adjustments, nor photos of it.

I have often wished I had a book for each craft that would keep me focused on the projects I have on the go, the projects that I want to start, either as gifts or for myself, any adjustments I have done for the project so I could refer back to it, especially if I started the project so long ago.

I have looked at Quilter’s journals/planners over the years thinking how great these were but there was always something that held me back – the fact that most of them were in book form, which meant that you couldn’t add to it once pages had been filled in. You would also be left with pages in the book that weren’t useful or relevant to you so it would be a waste. I thought on just printing out templates and placing them into a folder, but that just didn’t seem special enough. I was wanting something unique, special, and personalised – something that fitted exactly what I had in mind.

This is the result of months, upon months of thinking, planning, researching, drawing, typing, designing, and coming up with a truly personalised crafter’s handbook.

Quilter’s Handbook

We have discussed all about inventories – pre-cut fabric, tools and notions, patterns and books in the previous posts and ways in which to get ourselves organised and know exactly what we have and more importantly, where it is kept.

Having those inventory lists kept in the Handbook folder made it so easy to look up an item and know where it is kept.

Section Divider pages

I have always wanted to keep a planner, but never found one that suited my needs/wants. I wanted a planner that I could add pages to as needed and rather than a prebound book where I couldn’t add the pages needed or leave out the ones I didn’t need or use. Basically, I was looking for a customised book that would be used and not left part empty due to unusable pages/templates.  I have come up with these templates/pages which best suit my needs/wants, and hopefully yours. We may feel hesitate to use a journal/planner due to not knowing exactly how to make the best of it. A journal is not there to make us feel guilty or accountable of the unfinished projects, but to help keep us focused and motivated to get things done and to extent of our skills, to keep track of what projects we need to make, the projects we have made and gifted, the numerous BOM projects we signed up for. It also has the added benefit of keeping track of the pattern and materials used, writing notes/tips in case you want to make it again.

So just what is in the journal/planner section? And how do we make the most of what is in there?

quilters handbook folder

Firstly there is the ‘Goals’ planner …

It is always good to start fresh each year and set ourselves some goals for the coming year. Maybe there are techniques we want to learn, maybe setting aside time to dedicate to finishing those unfinished projects thrown in the back of the cupboard, or maybe it is nothing quilting/sewing related.

This is where we can write down those goals, the reason why and the steps needed to achieve the goal. Breaking a goal down into smaller steps can make that dream/goal seem more achievable and not as daunting. It is also brilliant when we can tick the goal as achieved.

Just because we have written them down, doesn’t mean they have to be achieved. There is no rule to say we can’t change our mind. Life, needs, and situations change, which means that our goals change along the way. It is also brilliant to have a written record of our goals so we can look back at the end of the year and see what we have achieved over the year.

Goals Planner

Writing down a list of the projects we have started and never completed, helps us to truly realise just how many we have on the go and needs finished. This could be one of your goals for the year – finish a certain amount of the WIP’s on your list. I have also found that my unfinished projects are all stored away in different boxes, drawers, and areas – all waiting patiently to be resumed.

This list helps you to know exactly what you have started (and need to finish). I felt it was best to keep this list simple, with just the stage the project was left at and MOST importantly, where it is stored. Once you get back to the project, start a Project page for it so you can keep track of your progress, keep more detailed notes and tick off each complete stage of the project until it is complete.

Works in Progress planner

I also designed a planner for Future Projects. This planner is just as important as your Works in Progress List. We may have already started (& not finished) so many projects, but we will ALWAYS have a list of the projects we want to start at some stage.

I have all these projects that I want to do (at some future stage), and even an idea of the fabric to use from my stash, but it is all in my head and I tend to forget about them over time. I come across the fabric that I may have set aside, or ear marked for the project, but have forgotten where the pattern is that I wanted to use for it.

So this planner is for those projects, the ones we want to do at some stage in the future, and now it is all written down with all the essential notes like where the pattern is stored, or in what book it was published and whether or not I have the fabric for it in my stash or I need to purchase extra for it.

When I sat down and did an inventory of my quilting books, I also spent time flicking through each book and rediscovered projects that I had mentally told myself that I wanted to make up when I first got the book. It was silly of me to think that my brain would retain all that information and remember the project and where the pattern was. Actually there was one such project – a mantle cover – that I had found in a book/magazine that I had purchased, I mentally stashed that info away and I forgot which book the pattern was in! I searched through my books without success many times over! Would you believe that while doing the inventory, I actually found that pattern and was now able to add the project to my Future Projects planner, along with the pattern name, book title and the page it was on. Now I have it recorded safely in my journal for when I get round to making it up.

I have to admit it was a fun way to spend a day, going through all my books while doing the inventory. It was a great excuse to be able to revisit all my wonderful quilting books. I do have to admit that my pages grew quite without shame or hesitation. I now have quite a lengthy list of future projects planned. But I am not worried, there is no expiry date for starting or completing these projects. I do, however, now have a list written with all the projects I would like to do and know I will not lose that piece of paper with the details or forget the info stored in my head, as it is safe in my handbook. There is also space if I want to list down any fabric I may want to use for the project.

Future Projects Planner

Something that fits in well with future projects is gifts that we may want or need to make.

Every year I say that I am going to make gifts for family and friends at Christmas. I have several that I planned to make for a special occasion, but they are still unmade as they tend to get forgotten about. Definitely one task for my goal list.

This list is to help us stay focused on making gifts, giving a deadline so we can make time to get them made and gifted. It also gives a great record of what we made, who it was for and when it was finished and gifted.

Gifts to Make Planner

I am sure we have all subscribed to Block of the Month projects at some stage and even lost track of what we are subscribed to or when they are due out. If you are on Facebook, there are numerous designers from around the world that are running BOM projects through a designated Facebook Group and share each monthly pattern for free for a limited time. How many times have we joined up, started the project only to realise that we have missed the deadline to download the free monthly pattern and we are faced for with the choice of missing that monthly pattern or having to pay for it. Paying for a great pattern is no issue, but it can be when the designer is overseas and the only way to purchase the missing pattern is via a printed pattern and the postage is high or the designer doesn’t post internationally. I have been caught on several occasions and I always vow that I will keep better track of release dates and the BOMs, usually on a scrap of paper by my computer or in my diary.

This tracker solves all these issues. Here you can note down the name of the BOM, the designer and what Facebook group it is connected to (if relevant) along with where you have stored the pattern, either as a PDF in a designated folder in documents on your computer or as a printed pattern in one of your storage folders.

There is also room to note the start/end dates of the BOM, number of individual parts, price and any BOM rules that you need to remember, like the release date each month and if the pattern is a free download for a limited time.

Once you have started the BOM project, you can then start an individual project template so you can keep more detailed notes. I know that this BOM tracker will be invaluable as I subscribe to numerous Facebook BOM groups that run several free mystery projects each year. Now I can keep a written record of them and know that I have kept up to date with release dates and saved the pattern to my computer until I can get round to making the BOM.

Block of the Month BOM Planner

Keeping a journal for your current projects is brilliant. This is where you record everything you need about the project you are creating. The one place where you can keep a note of the more technical details of your project, like the fabrics and notions used, pattern name, piecing basics, notes of any adjustments or modifications you may have made. There is space for you to include fabric swatches (if you want) or written notes on the fabrics used along with photos of the finished project is also a checklist provided so you can tick off each step/process in the project which helps to break it down and gives you a visual note of how much you have done or what still needs to be done.

There is also a checklist provided so you can tick off each step/process in the project which helps to break it down and gives you a visual note of how much you have done or what still needs to be done.

With this tracker, you have everything you need to complete your project all in one spot, so you know exactly where to go if you have had a break in the project and just need a reminder of what needs to be done or the technical requirements like the thread colour, stitch length and so forth.

The best thing, you have a detailed written and visual record of something you have made and gifted to someone. If you every want to remake the project, you have all the information you need to complete another.

What I love about this, is that it is also a future keepsake of projects you have done. In years to come, you may go through your journal, and you will have a reminder of the projects you have made over the years. What memories and a true keepsake to pass down to future generations.

I know that I have made quilts in the past and never kept a journal on any details, nor took photos. These quilts have since gone, maybe gifted to others, or just misplaced. They are quilts that can not be shared with others, they only exist in my memories and over time those memories will no longer exist like the quilts themselves. I truly wish that I had the journal then, especially when I was first on my journey in creating quilts. What memories and stories would I have been able to share with my daughters’ if I had records of those first quilts? The ones that I had started when I was young, where I gathered the fabrics from, the mistakes (redesigning) I had created with those quilts, the skills and knowledge I had gained with those quilts but more importantly, the memories and stories I could recall with making each and every one of those quilts.

Project Journal

The journal and planner will help you in so many ways – like planning your future projects, helping you keep track on the projects that are in progress and need to be finished (the ones that needed to go on holiday for a while), any gifts you need to make for someone.

Planner and Journal Section

Come back next time when I will discuss and look at the Basic Reference section. The section that we all can do with referring back to, no matter how long we have been sewing or quilting for ….

However, why not go to the website and check out the Quilter’s Handbook and maybe start to build your very own personalised Handbook to help you with all your quilting and sewing needs ….

Taking stock of all your notions and tools

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So following on with doing an inventory of my pre-cut fabrics, I also did one for my Accuquilt dies a year or so ago.

This inventory came about, long before the creation of the Quilter’s handbook, with the need to know exactly what dies I had. I had purchased the machine and a couple of the dies. I found these items to be quite expensive and not something I wanted to purchase often. There was only one or two places in the UK that stocked the dies, however Amazon started to stock them and every so often, they had some very good offers/discounts on the dies. So much so, when they did come on offer, it proved to be hard to resist.

I had my dies stored on a shelf in my craft snug but as the number increased, it was hard to remember exactly just what I had. It proved to be abit of a bother to keep going out to the craft snug, locating the dies, writing down the details on a scrap paper. I always seemed to misplace that piece of paper when it came to the next time, and I had to repeat the exercise all over again! So, I came up with the idea of an inventory and breaking it further down into the different types of dies. This proved handy when I was looking for a certain size in a square and so forth.

I now have my Accuquilt dies written down and placed in my quilter’s handbook and it is just a matter of grabbing it and checking to see what dies I have and also to add in any new acquired ones. I also have a wish list of dies that I would like and when I see them on offer, I can just check them from my wish list.

From my Accuquilt inventory, the idea expanded, and I thought of all the other tools and notions I have acquired over the years and really have NO idea of exactly what I have! It really is bad, but it also meant that I was not sure of what I had if I was wanting to treat myself to a new ‘essential’ tool or notion. Knowing what tool or notion you have on hand is also handy when you start to plan your next cutting task.

I purchased some free motion rulers for myself a few years back and there are times when I see someone DE stashing some on Facebook and was never too sure if I had that particular one. With an inventory I now know exactly what I have and can shop around for specials/offers, knowing it is only a matter of checking my free motion ruler inventory to see what I already have.

Free motion rulers

I found this extremely useful as I have two inventories of the free motion rulers for both my domestic machine and the long arm, as both of these machines use totally different free motion rulers.

Over the years of quilting, my stash of quilting rulers has expanded from the one basic ruler which I brought when I first started and still use most of the time, to a wide range of other rulers. I had lost count of the rulers I have purchased over the years and knowing exactly what I had and what they were used for.

I have the staple collection of my essential rulers – the long standard cutting ruler, a couple of smaller rulers, several square rulers and my Stripology ruler. I kept those in the mat, ruler bag that I had designed to hold my mats and the rulers I use the most for cutting fabrics. It was a handy place to store them, and they were always with my mats.

The patterns for the three different designs – Butterfly among the Flowers, Golden Rule and the Plain mat, ruler bag are available as patterns from our website, either in PDF or printed format.

However, I have purchased other rulers that would be more specialised and used for specific tasks. Some would have been an impulse buy after seeing them promoted. Whatever way you looked at it, the collection was growing, and I was unsure of exactly what I had. It was also getting harder to know exactly where they were stored when I needed them.

So, the ruler inventory was created. But not just one inventory. Not all rulers are equal … NOR do they all do the same thing or have the same purpose. The ruler inventory is divided into three separate categories –

Standard Rulers

Rulers that are commonly used for cutting fabric such as 6 ½” x 12 ½”; 6 ½” x 24 ½”; 4 ½” square; etc.

Utility Rulers

Non-standard rulers that can be used for squaring up blocks, or specific function rulers such as Bloc Loc; ½” Triangles; Stripology Ruler; etc.

Specialty Rulers

Rulers that have a very specific use such as cutting or trimming certain blocks; Crazy Patch; Log cabins; Pineapples; etc.

I had such ‘fun’ storing through my stash of rulers and deciding which ones went into which category. But I can truly say it was a real sense of achievement to get them all sorted, listed into the particular inventory as well as allocating them into their specific locations.

Ruler Inventories

My Stripology ruler went there too as I use this often as well (and it was too large to go anywhere else). I allocated a drawer in my cupboard for storing the other rulers that I would not use as often as the standard ones but would still use regularly. I even placed the small rulers that I used regularly in my sewing trolley that I keep by my worktable, that way they were on hand and wouldn’t get lost in the other places.

The other rulers that I would use less often are placed in my small template folder that I designed for this purpose. I keep the folder on my shelf in the snug, so it is still handy to grab, and all the templates/rulers (instructions) are kept safe and in one place.

This small template folder is brilliant for keeping your smaller and less used rulers and templates safe in a sturdy zipped folder. There is also room to keep any instructions sheets that may have come with the rulers and templates. There are two designs available as patterns (either PDF or printed format) on the website – a plain folder and Just a small golden rule – featuring some machine piecing of a tape measure that matches up with the mat, ruler bag design of the same design available as patterns from our website.  

Completing the ruler inventory took me another afternoon to do and it was so satisfying to gather up all of my rulers and assign them to a specific inventory category and then to a designated location and have all that written down. It is now easy to check what ruler I have and where I can find it …. So much better than wondering if I had really did own that ruler … or did I imagine it?

What about all those tools and notions that you have acquired along the way, like specialised marking tools, applique, and tools/notions? The tools and notions that make your life easier and you just couldn’t be without. I really didn’t think of having an inventory of these items. They were things I seemed to take for granted. Items you purchase along the way, and sometimes forgot about. Small tools that got put at the back of the sewing box or into a drawer and never brought out again. Items that really would be so handy to use …. Often…

I had this happen to me … just recently ….. I was sewing and the pattern suggested using an awl to help with attaching the binding on a 3D item. I really thought it was a tool that I did not own. Yet, once I went through my box of notions/tools in my dresser, I discovered that I did in fact owe one … several in fact! They were pulled out and placed on my sewing trolley and I have been making good use of them!

So, filling out the inventory of these specialised wee tools is brilliant. You never know what you may rediscover!

Once these inventories were completed, I decided to start on my patterns, magazines and books …..  We all collect patterns that we want to eventually make, be it PDFs, single paper patterns or a pattern in a book. I don’t even want to begin on books …. But I promise I will …. After the patterns ….

Over the years I have purchased PDF patterns online and stored them to my computer. I have also forgotten exactly what PDF patterns I have. So with this inventory, it is now possible to have a record of all the PDF patterns, what they are and what document file they are stored under on the computer. Hopefully, no more forgotten PDF patterns….

What about the printed patterns? Do you purchase patterns, with the intention of making them and maybe, putting them somewhere … How many of us forget where that special pattern is? I know I have, plenty of times, getting frustrated on exactly where that one pattern is! I have written them on loose paper (& lost the paper!) so hence, this handy inventory of your patterns kept safe in your folder, so the next time you are looking for that one pattern, you know where to look.

Pattern Inventory

I had fun gathering up all of my By Annie patterns and seeing them written down in my pattern inventory was astounding! I didn’t realise I had accumulated so many of them. However, I have a good reason for that – I am making quite a few of the bags for organizing my craft items and tools. But I will save that for another post…. It is still very much a work in progress, and I have a long way to go on that area ….

By Annie Patterns

Books! Where do I start on this subject?! I definitely think I am a book addict!! Definitely an addict (or collector) of quite a number of different items! I am sure we have all brought books on quilting, techniques, and designs from a particular designer. How many of us forget just what particular book we have, or even where it is (or should be)?

I know that I personally have hundreds of quilting books – ‘How to’ on a particular sewing or quilting technique, a particular designer with a collection of project patterns, or instructions to create quilts from pre-cut fabrics. There have been numerous times that I have wanted a list of the actual books I have, so I can go straight to the location of the book. It is also handy to have if you discover a book sale and you are not sure if you already have that book. With this book inventory (as well as a wish list), you will not be guessing.

Book Inventory

At the start of the first lockdown, Alyssa and I made a pact that we would go through each area of the house and sort through/organise everything. We have managed to do quite a few of the areas – my office area, my fibre/spinning area and the library area was on the to do list as well. To date, we have been putting it off as it really is daunting and there are literally hundreds of books. The bookcases need to be tackled one at a time and the books taken off the shelves, one shelf at a time and sorted. We need to go through the books and see what ones we no longer need/use/interested in. At the same time, write down the title and author of all the books we want to keep. It is a task that is well overdue. The bookcases are overflowing, and I can’t fit any more books into it. I know that I will NOT stop buying books, so the logical choice is to weed out the irrelevant books….

Bookcases

It is a task we have both been putting off …. And we are fast running out of reasonable excuses … I also need to know exactly what books I have in the bookcases …. I have purchased so many of the various craft subjects. I also need to put the books into logical grouping, so I know where to find a specific book when needed.

Hence, this inventory. I now have no excuse for not doing the bookcases and it also means that I can finally have my books written down and at a glance I can see exactly what I have and (fingers crossed) will NEVER purchase a book I already own. I also plan on keeping all the books on a particular subject – spinning, knitting, applique, embroidery, etc. – all together on a particular shelf/bookcase and this will then be noted on the inventory form.

Keeping inventories is brilliant, so you know exactly what tools/notions you have, their purpose and where they are located – i.e. – on the shelf or in a drawer; in a box, container, or folder; or any other place you usually store them. When you are preparing for your next project, you can refer back to the inventories to see what you already have and what you may need to purchase to complete that project.

It is also a handy reference so when you see a sale you know exactly what you have or don’t have, no longer a guessing game as to what you already have.

It is even handy to have a wish list for your tools/notions, so when there is a sale or friends/family are wanting ideas of what to get you for Christmas/Birthday, you can just pass on the ‘Wish list’.

I have also found it handy to have a written inventory for insurance purposes in case the worse happens and you need to replace everything.

Hopefully this insight on inventories in the Quilter’s Handbook will help you to sort and organise your craft space and you will always know exactly what tool, notion, pattern, or book you have …. With our Handbook you will be able to purchase the inventory templates that are suitable for your needs. If you don’t have free motion rulers, then you don’t need to purchase the free motion ruler inventory. The same with the Accuquilt die inventory. If you don’t own a Accuquilt machine, why would you need an inventory for the dies? Our new Handbook release is truly a design where you can pick and purchase what you need to make up your very own Handbook that is suitable for your needs. I will have more information on how it all works once it is ready to be release on the website in the next week or so ….

My Inventory section

Come back next time when I will discuss the Handbook in depth, and we will look at the section all about the journal and projects. This section is one that I am really excited about using…..

How do you store your fabric stash?

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This question is something that I get asked time and time again. For some of us, it really isn’t an issue and are so disciplined, that there is NO fabric stash, as you only buy what you need for your current project. What category would you put yourself into – A fabric stasher or A ‘buy as I need to’ person?

It is strange thinking back on when I first started to sew and quilt, many decades ago. I remember there being a time when I would have put myself into the last category – I brought what fabric I needed for the project I was planning on making. It got hard at times, as I would buy the fabric at the regular price and it could get quite expensive. Even though there was a couple of dressmaking fabric shops in the town I lived, there were NO quilting fabric shops! In fact, the nearest quilting fabric shop was about 7 hours drive away in Auckland! It was the time BEFORE online shopping! It was only a few years before I moved to Northern Ireland, that my local town got a large craft store (Australian chain – Spotlight) and it was a treasure haven of all things crafting!!

Spotlight Stores

I also found that I would get the sudden urge to start creating (often at weird hours) and just not be able to, due to not having the fabric on hand. It was frustrating. I started searching in the local charity shops for fabric lengths and clothing made from cotton fabric that could be repurposed into quilts. That was the start of my fabric stash but it was manageable and I stored it on shelves in my ‘sewing’ room.

In moving to Ireland, I had to start my fabric stashing again. For a number of years after I moved, I had no such thing as a fabric stash and really didn’t do much sewing or crafting. I had to find the quilting shops which is hard to do when you are new in an area and don’t know of other such minded people. However, the internet has made shopping so much easier and maybe abit too easy for emptying our wallets.

I started to buy fabrics that were on sale, mostly fat quarters, and these I started to store in plastic containers. I remember I had a good size one (or so I thought) that would be perfect to store my fabric stash and make it easier to create when I got the sudden urge. That storage system worked well for a short period, but my buying of fabric started to grow when I saw fabric on special.

I had to rethink a good way to store my stash so I could easily see what I had before I started on a project. It is hard when you suddenly decided that you have to create that quilt on a Sunday and then realise you don’t have the fabric and there are no shops open.

I have become a shopper of quilting fabric, mostly when it is on special. I have also come to the conclusion that Fabric buying and storing is a separate hobby from sewing. I would always buy Fat quarters which were great for small projects or scrappy quilts. But as I progressed (& especially when I started to design) I realised that sometimes fat quarters just don’t fit the bill so I would buy half metre or over metre lengths.

So this brought about the issue of how to store your fabric (which is the purpose of this blog). I thought that it would be useful to share my ideas and resolutions on how to store that fabric stash.

I wanted something that stored my fat quarter fabrics in a way that it was easy to see what they were and kept them protected. I found the best storage solution was the Really useful containers – 6.5 litre size that are meant to store CD’s into. These are just the right height to keep the folded fat quarters in so they stand upright. I sorted the fabric into categories – Christmas fabric and then into the colours – a box for each. It is a great way to see exactly what colours, prints and fabrics you have. I also keep my half metre lengths in these containers which works well.

The next issue that needed to be sorted was how to store my fabrics that are a metre or more in length. The real issue I had with these fabric lengths, was how they would come folded from the shops. They are usually folded in such a way that makes it awkward to cut the fabric into the required cuts on the cutting mat. This is especially true if you have a length of 3 metres or more. Basically you would have to unfold the length and then fold in half along the length so the cutting length is manageable and fits onto the cutting board. I found that having to do this really took away the joy of preparing and starting a new project, as all you want to do is to get struck into cutting and begin sewing, and not having to wrestle with fabric lengths.

I found this way a few years ago on the internet and it works for me, so I thought I would share this with you. It means that when I want to use the fabric and start cutting… the fabric is all ready to cut into. The fabric is folded in such a way, that the fabric width is ideal for the cutting board and you don’t need to spend the time trying to wrestle and fold the fabric when all you want to do is start cutting and sewing. All the hard work is done when you store your fabric. Its brilliant, especially when you have lengths of 3 metres….

  • Fold the fabric lengthways- selvedge towards the fabric fold, ensuring it lies straight with the grain n no major creases. You may need to iron the length of fabric.
  • I then take a comic book backing board (A4 size) and fold in half lengthways as shown in the photo. The boards are from Amazon – comic book backing boards- 100 for around £10. I also reuse them when I have used all of the fabric.
  • Place the fabric end into the board so the fabric end sits in between the board touching the board fold as shown in the photo.
  • Start folding the board along the fabric length ensuring the fabric remains smooth n flat as you fold the board.
  • Fabric length folded onto the board- easy to keep tidy in storage and ready for cutting when required. All you need to do when you want to cut, is to unfold some of the fabric so you can cut the required size. The fabric on the board stays tidy and out of the way.
  • The fabric boards are now ready to be stored upright on a shelf which makes it easy to see the fabric. I store my fabric lengths in an Ikea box on a shelf away from direct sunlight. The fabric bolts are placed in a box according to their colours. I have a box for plain fabrics as well as Christmas fabrics.

As well as collecting fabric lengths and Fat quarters, I seem to have succumb to the habit of collecting pre-cuts. You know, the ones with pretty sounding names – Jelly rolls, layer cakes, honey buns, charm packs and so forth. You could be mistaken in thinking that I am referring to a sweet shop …. But these lovely names refer to pre-cut fabric bundles for quilting.

Pre-cut fabrics

I remember years back, I vowed never to collect these…. But times change and sometimes we succumb …. To the point … where I had acquired several items in the range and placed them randomly about my sewing snug to only lost them in the abyss of the dark corners ….. I no longer knew exactly what I had brought over time with all good intentions to actually use them. YES, buying fabric and ACTUALLY using it …. Are TWO separate hobbies!

So…. With the Quilter’s handbook in the planning …. I strongly felt that a space was needed in the book to have a pre-cut inventory! I spent a lovely afternoon, quietly locating ALL of my pre-cuts (though I do fear that the ODD one or two still remains lost!) and I dutifully recorded ALL of the pre-cuts into my inventory. I was shocked with what I actually had on hand, and it quickly filled up several pages! However, at the end of the exercise, I was able to know exactly what I had, how many of each and exactly where it was now located. Yes, I designated several drawers and plastic containers for the different types of pre-cuts. I can now look at my inventory sheet, know exactly what I have and in what designer collection and where it is located. One of my goals this year is to use up those pre-cuts to create some quilts.

It really was the most satisfying afternoon I had spent in a while. There was such a sense of achievement in the end with it all recorded in a safe place where I can quickly refer to and know exactly where to find a particular pre-cut.

With starting on my pre-cut inventory journey, it seemed natural to continue with compiling inventories of my other notions and tools. You just never know what item you will reacquaint yourself with …. There is always bound to be that notion or tool that you have forgotten about or mislaid…..

A Lady NEVER ……. Discusses the size of her Fabric Stash!!!!

Come back next week and we will discuss the other inventories in the Quilter’s Handbook and how to use them ….

Organising your Sewing Space / Introduction …

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As a crafter of many different craft interests, it can be so hard to know where and how to keep yourself organised (and tidy). If you are lucky enough to have a designated craft room (no matter what size) it is brilliant to be able to have/store everything in the room, go in there to create and when you are finished, just close the door behind you. However, not all of us are lucky enough to have that separate space to store, organise or just to shut ourselves way to be able to sew or craft.

I have always been interested in crafts; in fact it was a way of life when I was growing up. My mother was a sewer who helped to supplement the family income by doing dressmaking for people. I often remember ladies coming to the house for fittings and so forth to have that outfit sewn up. Even back then (50 odd years ago) she didn’t have a designated sewing room. Thinking back now I have no idea where she stored all her sewing/crafting notions and equipment. With a young child’s eye, they always seemed to magically appear when she needed them and magically disappear when they were no longer needed! She sewed from the kitchen table, did the fittings there as well (when my father was not at home) and would draft out the paper pattern for the outfit from a magazine on the floor of the sitting room under the watchful eye of my sister and I (both very young) but even at that young age, we learnt by watching and taking everything in.

It was just the routine of our family and from a very young age, we learnt the skills of understanding the strange language of the lines (with different colours and patterns) that represented the different outfits in the magazine. Those magazines were sent out a couple of times a year to New Zealand by her mother in Holland and over the years they grew into quite a large pile, and they were used by several generations of sewers. She never threw any of the magazines out and you knew at some stage the outfits would eventually come back into fashion. The magazines were in Dutch, so we could never understand the written instructions on how to make up those wonderful outfits that were photographed in the magazines. However, we were taught how to locate the lines that were for the particular outfit, locate them on the pattern sheets, use the roll of newsprint and the tracing wheel to draft out our very own patterns.

Pattern Drafting sheets

My sisters and I learnt to sew by watching and participation. I was sewing outfits for myself when I was 7/9 years, and those early years gave me a firm foundation into dressmaking. It wasn’t just sewing that my mother gave us a lasting love for. She was also kept herself busy with several other crafts – knitting, crocheting, painting, cross stitch, needlework and spinning. Her passions in those crafts were passed down to myself, and my sisters.

So, how does this relate to craft organisation? Well … my mother never had the luxury of a designated sewing room. She did her sewing on the kitchen table and her other crafts were done in the evening. Looking backon how long I have been sewing and crafting for, I can also honestly say that I never had a designated craft room to store all my crafty notions and materials. Moving from childhood into young adult and then into my own home, I still did not have a designated craft area where I could store everything.

It is hard to think of just where did I store everything. My Dad acquired an old Singer sewing machine treadle table (minus the machine) when I was a teenager. He restored it for me, and it was my own small, designated sewing area. I could keep my machine on the table and sew there. There was space inside (where the machine once was stored) where I could keep all of my dressmaking patterns and the drawers were just perfect for keeping my scissors, pins, and other essential notions in. Maybe I just didn’t have as much as I thought I did. When I was sewing all my own outfits (as well as my girls) I would generally go out and buy the fabric needed, there was no fabric stash. Could I also be right in thinking that maybe now, we are needing so much more in the way of ‘essential’ equipment?

Singer sewing machine table

I kept my other craft materials in cupboards around the house and when I wanted to work on them, I would carry them together and take them where I wanted to work. It was generally in the lounge or the kitchen table. The latter was a bit more of a nuisance as I would have to tidy everything away at every mealtime due to the table being needed.

I remember one house I lived in, I was overjoyed to find there was a space in the laundry (Utility) room with a wooden bench by the window with some shelving on each side. I finally had my own sewing room. However, it was not ideal, the utility room was out through the back door and was basically a concrete floor outbuilding which I had to share with the freezer, washing machine and dryer. There was barely any room in which to work in. I definitely could not lay anything on the floor, it was uneven as well. There was no room to have an iron or to cut everything out. The bench was narrow and not that long, so just large enough for the sewing machine to sit. It was nice when the weather was dry and warm, but during the winter, it was cold and dismal. I think I generally ended up taking my machine and sewing on the kitchen table. The shelves were great to store my odd bits of fabric onto. I was just starting to get into patchwork at this stage and was slowly buying pieces of cotton fabric. There was also a disused toilet and shower room off this area, so it had become a place where I could store my surplus craft materials in boxes, along with fleeces I had acquired for spinning. I guess we make do at the time with what we have. But we all need to have it organised.

Once I moved into the rabbit hole of quilting, my essential notions and tools seemed to explode at an alarming rate. At the start (over 20 years ago) it seemed that only essential tools needed were the cutting mat, ruler, and cutter. Now there is so much more on offer and all claiming to make our quilting so much easier. I am not disputing that, as I have acquired so many tools that I just wouldn’t be without as they have made quilting/sewing so much easier and enjoyable. But when you invest in these needed tools, you really need to keep them safe and more importantly, know where they are so you can grab them when you need them.

We all need to have that one area, that we can go to and know that we can find exactly what we need, where it is kept and more importantly …. To know exactly what we have. Have you ever purchased a tool and then realised that you have exactly the same at home, but had forgotten about it, or maybe mislaid it due to not being organised?

I know I am guilty of that over the years. If you don’t have a designated craft/sewing room, it can be hard to know where everything is kept. Thankfully, I can now say, after 50 years of sewing, I now have my very own designated sewing/craft snug! However, like many crafters I am a messy crafter, and it can be so difficult to keep my craft snug tidy and organised, especially after a day of sewing and pulling things out when I have needed them. I am good at getting out what I need, but just not that great at putting it back after I have finished with it!

Once tidy craft snug

I love my craft snug and after a few trials and errors I am making it into what I need and require in a sewing area. I have my table in the middle, so I am not facing a wall. The window is far too high to have my machine there and there is a radiator directly under the window. It is not an ideal room as there really isn’t any wall space available, it is basically an open area off the kitchen and next to the stairs. So it is making the best of what I have to work with and using it to its best ability. The Ikea storage shelves are brilliant, and I have found the fabric bins and plastic tubs really make for great storage containers. There is built in shelves and cupboards which are still a work in progress. I have purchased several types of plastic drawers which are put to great use – for storing all my spinning tools and blending fibres as well as the different types of needlework thread.

I have found that I am ‘a list’ person. I like to work to lists. It gives me something tangible to work from and to look at when I need to refocus myself and know exactly what I have. I like order, I just find it hard to maintain that order all the time. I tend to be a messy sewer …. I will leave that there ….

I also found that my craft snug can tend to become a dumping ground. When in a rush, things get dumped in there with the intention of ‘sorting that out later on’ and it just never does. I am also a crafter that needs to have several projects on the go at the same time. To the point where I have numerous (too many to count) Unfinished Projects. There are times when I tend to forget about them and stumble across them many years later. It shouldn’t be like this, but it is. My creative mind seems to jump about from one idea to another, especially when it comes to coming up with new designs.

During the first COVID lockdown I used the time to think over my craft projects and different crafts. I was in desperate need to know exactly what projects I had, be it partially finished or yet to be started. What tools and equipment I had and just exactly where it was all stored? To find a suitable method in which to store my fabric. The list was endless.

Fabric storage

I know I could just tidy and organise my sewing snug again, but how long would it stay in that state, and it still didn’t solve the need to know what equipment I actually had. I had purchased an Accuquilt machine several years ago and had been slowly adding to my collection of dies. When I found a good sale for them online, I struggled to know what I already had without having to go through them all and write them down. This was the first step in starting to organise my tools. I had complied an Inventory for my Accuquilt dies. I found this so handy, and it was brilliant to be able to transfer that inventory idea to the other expensive equipment I had acquired over the years – books, patterns, free motion rulers, quilting rulers and other handy specialised notions.

Inventory pages

There is such an achievement when you have gone through all your notions, tools, patterns, etc sorted them and compiled an inventory of them all. It gives you a sense of being in control and knowing exactly what you have. It is even better if you know exactly where that particular notion is kept. I decided that this was the year that I would truly get myself organised.

So with inventories all completed, it got me thinking of the projects started but never finished and even the ones planned but never started. In sorting through my craft snug, I pulled out containers of long forgotten fabric bundles, obviously placed together for a particular project but having no idea which one due to no pattern or note placed in the container. This is when I decided to expand on my inventories. I discovered several containers of pre-cut fabric bundles – jelly rolls, charm packs, layer cakes …. I had no idea of just exactly what I had and NEEDED to know so I could use them!

Pre-cut fabrics

I wanted to create some organisation with my sewing so I would not get overwhelmed with what I had to get done or even to forget about the special quilt I wanted to make but never got round to. I started thinking on the project folders/books that many quilters spoke about. The concept interested me, but I never found exactly what I wanted or needed in such a book. I like to work from lists. I am terrible for roughly scribbling lists/notes on scraps of paper and then losing them as I had nowhere to keep them safe. I guess I searched and thought about the concept for quite a number of years, but never did anything about it. I just couldn’t find one that fitted all my needs. I wanted something that I could add to if I ran out of space – so a book wouldn’t work as it would not allow me to add to the pages when I ran out. It would also have pages that I wouldn’t use so it would be a waste of a book. I didn’t want to print off templates and put them into a folder – it just wouldn’t be special enough. I thought of placing the paper sheets into plastic pockets – but that wasn’t suitable – as it meant that each time, I wanted to write something down, I would have to take the paper out of the plastic pocket. I really needed to put my thinking cap on.

So, the Quilter’s Handbook was conceived…. I started to put down ideas of what I wanted in my book to keep me on track…. Somewhere I could write down all the projects I wanted to start, those I needed to finish, as well as the projects I was currently on where I could add in notes for any adjustments. Somewhere that the notes would be safe, and I could refer back to them if I ever needed to make that particular project again. It also gave me a record of what I had made, something to go back over in years to come. I also needed a place where I could keep a record of all the patterns, books, tools, and notions that I have and where they are kept. The handbook was designed so that you could decide just what pages/sections you needed for your own use, so there was no wasted or unnecessary pages.

Front cover of the Quilter’s Handbook

I had so much fun deciding on what to put into this folder. I am excited about sharing it with you over the next few weeks. It is the result of many months of research, ideas, trials, and errors in putting together the perfect quilters handbook to help keep you organised and on track. I also felt it was important to add in a section of the basics when it comes to quilting and using your machine. How often have we had tension issues and just not quite sure on how to adjust the tension dial or even to check through all the tension issues before touching that dial? What about how to accurately cut fabric when we are directed in the pattern to cut fabric with a 16th fraction? Maybe all the quilting terms are confusing? What about the common sizes of UK beds if we want to make a quilt for a particular sized bed? I have complied all that to go into this Handbook. Now you just need to grab the handbook and look it up instead of spending hours searching online for answers. There is so much more to this book….

Back cover of the Quilter’s Handbook

Over the next few weeks, I will do blog posts on helping you to organise your sewing area. We will discuss storing your tools, notions and fabrics and using the inventory sheets and making them work for you. We will also look further into the Quilters Handbook and how to make the most of it.

I hope you will enjoy accompanying on this journey while, together, we will organise our designated sewing space…… and move this area ….

One very messy craft snug in desparate need of organising and sorting

Into an improved, tidy and VERY organised sewing space ….

Needlework notions

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I have had so much pleasure in making our selection of stitch and progress markers. It is lovely to be able to use beautiful handmade notions when knitting and crocheting. I have been using mine a lot since Christmas and have found them so lovely to use.

Selection of stitch/progress markers

The counting chain is one that I use a lot now and this notion has been a game changer when it comes to having to keep count of how many rows need to be knitted. You can read more on how to use this fabulous notion in my previous blog post.

I have a good selection of the chains on the website in a variety of ring sizes and colours. If you haven’t tried them yet, why not check them out….

I also have a few other counting themed notions in the pipeline for BOTH knitting and crocheting and hope to have those added to the website by February. But enough of the knitting notions – this blog is all about our new needlework notions.

In making the markers, etc, it got me thinking on what could I create for the needleworkers? What would be some lovely handmade notions that are ‘essential’ for when we are doing needlework? I was wanting to create a lovely unique range that would make perfect small gifts for the stitcher, and I got thinking about the items I like to have in my sewing box that is invaluable for when I am doing needlework. I am sure you could think of a number of notions in your sewing box that you could not be without.

Whether we do cross stitch, blackwork, embroidery, Redwork, white work, or other forms of hand stitching, I know that these three notions will become an essential part of your needlework kit. So, what are they?

Thread Conditioner

Just what is thread conditioner? Well…. Have you ever experienced knotty or tangled thread? Using metallic thread and ending up fighting with it, having it get knotted or broken? Or are you like me, and just plain avoid using metallic thread as you know it is completely unworkable, no matter HOW stunning it looks in the finished project?

I was like that for many years. I loved the look of metallic threads in my needlework designs, BUT the very thought of actually having to work with it sent me into complete shudders and I would just not put it into my work. However, that changed quite a few years ago when I came across a product that came from America and was available through Amazon at a huge price for such a small item.

So how do you use it and what does the beeswax do to the embroidery thread? Basically, you pull your thread through the wax, and it helps stop the thread from getting tangled and really makes the metallic thread behave itself and is a pleasure to work with. It also helps to prevent the thread from fraying and strands separating. A real game changer!

I got thinking on how these would be a nice gift idea, but I wanted them to be unique and handmade, not just a blob of beeswax in a plastic container. I did some research and have come up with my own handmade thread conditioner which is made from 100% bees’ wax. I poured the beeswax into cute bee themed blocks, and once fully set, each block is wrapped in tissue paper and kept in a small tin, which is perfect for keeping in your needlework basket. They also come with an instruction card on how to make the most of your thread conditioner.

I am also looking at maybe doing some with added essential oils to really help relax and de-stress you while you are stitching, or maybe some seasonal smells to set the mood of the season and you’re stitching. Let me know what you think ….

Needle Minders

So, how many can relate to misplacing your needle? Or are you guilty of ‘just’ piercing your needle into the arm of the chair so you can cut your thread and rethread it? How often have you had to dig through the back of the sofa to try and find the needle that dropped while you were just going to rethread it? The even thought of ‘accidentally’ finding a lost needle is even more frightening. I know I have experienced all of the above and it isn’t a nice feeling when you CAN’T find that lost needle and just pray and hope that when it is found it is not going to be with serious consequences.

I tried to get into the habit of sticking my needle into the fabric I was working on. It was not ideal, BUT it seemed better than piercing it into parts of the furniture. I am sure we have all found ‘lost forgotten’ projects that we were working on … ages ago …. Or maybe we inherited some half-finished needlework from another stitcher who started it many (many) years ago … only to discover that the needle that was placed ‘safely’ into the fabric had long since rusted the fabric and ruined the project. I have had a few half-finished projects gifted to me that had been started so long ago (and a few of my own) and the needle has rusted the fabric. I remember, I was taught NEVER to keep the needle in the fabric – but how often do we pay attention to what we are told to do?

I came across these nifty wee notions and was immediately struck with how ingenious they were. I really do wonder, how I managed without them. These are needle minders, and they sit on top of your work, not piercing the fabric to keep your needle safe and secure. No longer the fear of the needle falling into the bottomless abyss of the sofa or getting lost in the carpet …. They are great for just … keeping your needle safe when not in use.

I must admit I was also abit sceptical on how secure they would keep the needle. But after using it and keeping my needle on the minder, in my project bag when not working on the stitching, it was brilliant to know that the needle would be exactly where I had left it.

So how does a needle minder work? ….. they use two magnets – one glued to the back of the decorative piece and one that is loose. This way, you are able to place the minder onto your current stitching, sandwich the fabric between the two magnets so you can place your needle close at hand when you are not using it. It also makes the needle minder easy to move around on the cross stitch/embroidery piece and easy to remove from the piece.

Sometimes, I need to change thread colour to work on a small section, but don’t want to unthread my current needle. With the needle minder, you can place the threaded needle onto the minder and know it is safe while you use the new colour and come back to the previous needle when needed and it is still threaded up ready to use. It is also handy when you are working a particular embroidery stitch where you would use two needles threaded up with two different threads, i.e.., Couching stitch. The couching stitch requires two threads – the foundation thread and then the thread to secure it. Usually you place the foundation thread along the desired line and secure it at both ends. I found that I prefer to have the foundation thread loose so I can move it as needed, especially if the foundation line is curved or longer than the working space in the hoop. This is where the minder came into its own, I was able to leave the foundation thread threaded onto a needle and kept safe (and out of my way) on the needle minder….

Needle minders can make a great gift because of the almost endless possibilities of designs. There is nothing nicer than having a cute and pretty notion that you can use while you are stitching. I currently have a small range of unique needle minders, but rest assured, I will be constantly expanding on the different designs. You can never have enough needle minders….

Each needle minder comes in an organza bag along with an instruction sheet on how to use them as well as the following safety message –

It is also important to stress that needle minders are created with strong magnets, so electronics should be kept away from needle minders at all times. The memory on electronic devices may get wiped if the magnets from the needle minder get too close. It is even recommended to keep needle minders away from pacemakers because the magnetic pull from the needle minders can stop a pacemaker from functioning properly if it gets too close.

Scissor Fobs/Charms

I love using small scissors when doing needlework. Lovely small scissors with an extra sharp and small blade. The small ones that are so easy to lose down the back of the sofa, right into the innards of the sofa. I have to confess that the other week I did my deep clean of the sofa where I sit and to my horrid, I found about 4 pairs of lost scissors, some I didn’t even realise I had misplaced! I try so hard to be good and keep them safe on my worktable beside the sofa, but … it is so much easier to just place them on the sofa seat beside me….

Our needlework ancestors had a lovely accessory to their scissors – scissor fobs. I had seen them years ago and wondered on how they would be useful …. However, a few years back I made one for a needlework course I was teaching. I have to say that once I had the fob on my scissors, I loved it and I rarely misplaced my scissors! – until the fob was taken off for some reason …. And then I misplaced the fob!

It was decorative, stylish, and ever so practical. They make it easy to quickly find those small sharp scissors in a messy work basket. They turn a plain, common pair of scissors into a unique notion, just with the addition of the fob.

Another reason to have a scissor fob is so our scissors are easy to recognise. This is so true when we attend classes or retreats. I have lost count on the times I have ‘misplaced’ scissors at a class or gathering with other crafters …. It is second nature to borrow someone’s scissors as they are ‘on hand’ and it is just as easy to not pass them back straight afterwards. With a handmade fob attached to your scissors, they are now unique and not just your standard ‘blend into the crowd’ scissors. It is also a great way for family members to recognise that the scissors are for needlework and NOT to be used on paper!

Conclusion

With Alyssa coming home from tech those few months ago, asking about jewellery making and if I had done it before, it has revived a love for jewellery making without actually making jewellery.

I started into the progress and stitch markers and rediscovered my love of unique beads and charms and the satisfaction of creating unique lovely, yet practical items that can be used in crafting.

From those markers and counting chains I started to think on how the handmade jewellery items could be transported into my other craft loves …. Quilting and needlework …. I was searching for items that would make brilliant and unique gifts for the crafter and even for ourselves. There are times when we ALL need to treat ourselves to something pretty that doesn’t cost a fortune….

So the thread conditioner started …. And then the needle minders and creating a range of cute and different needle minders …. And now … the scissor fobs ….

I have created a variety of different styles of scissor fobs from the simple charm fobs to the more decorative beaded fobs and even ones that can have your initial added into the fob….

As with all of my handmade crafting notions, each one is unique and handmade with care using quality materials. Many of the items are limited edition and cannot be repeated, which I feel makes them even more special.

So why not have a look through and let me know what you think of the new range of accessories for Nifty Needles….

Stitch and Progress Markers and what they are used for

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Following on from my previous blog in regard to Alyssa and I hunting out my jewellery craft bits and bobs …. And starting to make stitch and progress markers …. I thought it was a great way to introduce this exciting new product line ….

Stitch and Progress Markers

I have used stitch markers for many, many, years with my knitting. When I first started knitting, I never used them, or had even known about them. That all changed when I was introduced to knitting my garments from the Top Down (a great technique and I would strongly recommend you learning it if you haven’t already done so – in fact I even have a ‘Learn to’ kit in the shop) …. And stitch markers are essential with doing this technique as they marked where you needed to do the increases for the sleeves, front and back. I then used them when knitting shawls to remind me to increase at the shawl spine and even to divide the lace pattern repeats.

I must admit that I really never used them much for crochet. But in saying that, I found that the hook like markers came in quite handy to keep track of where the very last stitch was when crocheting in rows. I used this hack when teaching the learn to crochet course and this provided an invaluable tip/trigger for remembering EXACTLY where the VERY last stitch was meant to go. The perfect learners trick. I also found these hooks invaluable for keeping track of important places in the crochet piece.

End Marker for last stitch in crochet row

As mentioned in my previous blog, I love to use pretty, practical tools with my crafting. Yet I only used plain plastic markers even though I loved the decorative ones. I had a couple of decorative markers, but I hated using them. One lot used open jump rings so there was a split in the ring for opening and closing and no matter how careful I was, the ring always managed to snag my yarn which wasn’t great when using delicate and luxurious yarn …. So those rings were cast aside. I also had the wire loop style, which was a close loop with no opening, but the loop ‘moved’ …. In other words the bead at the base of the loop was not secured so would move up and tighten the loop.

In seeing all of the jewellery treasures, it really inspired me into wanting to make some markers. I did some research and online finger shopping to source the ideal findings needed to make the perfect markers, that I would be happy to use. That was a success (or disaster on how you look at it) – a success for my creative mind and a disaster for my bank account! But the orders were placed, and I started making up my first lot of decorative and practical markers.

So, while getting excited about making these unique wee tools and sharing the photos on Facebook, I soon learnt that not everyone (even knitters and crocheters) know what these wee markers are, or what they are used for. So of course I had to write a blog and go into detail on how to really make the most of these useful wee tools.

As mentioned earlier, I only had the plastic stitch markers for my knitting that came in two sizes and two colours. It really did not give me much scope for making full use of these tools. They were fine when I needed four rings to mark where the increases go in top down knitting. However, when knitting in the round, I had to place a marker to signify the start of the round. This can be difficult when you only have the one colour, or maybe a slightly larger ring…. And being me (short memory span) I would usually forget what colour/size ring I had used for the start of a round.

Marking the start of a new round in circular knitting

So, what is the difference between all the markers and just how many types are there?

Stitch (or progress) markers come with a number of different clasps ….

CLOSED MARKERS

As the name implies, these cannot be opened and are commonly known as Ring (Stitch) markers. These can be either with a split jump ring, wire loop or a closed jump ring. I am not keen on the first two types, which I explained about above and these in effect put me off the decorative markers. I make my stitch markers with a closed jump ring which is basically a solid metal ring made in the same way as the plastic rings. The rings usually come in a variety of sizes to fit a range of needle sizes, which makes sense as it would be awkward to use a very large ring on tiny knitting needles. It would also be the same if you only had tiny rings that couldn’t be used on larger needles.

The closed rings can only be used for knitting but have so many uses. Once you start to use markers in your knitting, you will not know how you managed without them.

These markers sit on your needle between the stitches to mark pattern changes, where the round begins and ends, pattern repeats and so forth. When you come to the marker, you just slip it from one needle to the other, or remove it, if it is no longer required.

One thing to remember, ring markers can only be used for knitting. They can’t be used in crocheting as the rings are closed and there is no needle for the marker to sit on between stitches as crochet only has one stitch.

Closed Markers using solid closed rings in various sizes to fit different needle sizes

OPEN RING MARKERS

These come in a variety of clasps –

Split ring marker which uses the split jump rings which you need to open like a paper clip. I am not keen on these as they can be difficult to open and closed with your fingers and the ends can snag your yarn.

Locking ones, using a Lobster or Leverback clasp like the ones that are common on necklaces/bracelets or earrings.

Split ring, Leverback and Lobster Clasps

Less common is the open marker which uses a hook clasp which does not close. They can be useful when it is not essential to have a locking marker but still need to be easily removed.

These markers are commonly used for crochet as the marker is basically attached to any stitch and easily removed when no longer required. They are great to use to indicate where the last stitch is needed to be worked when crocheting in rows, especially since it can be so easy to miss that last stitch to be worked into the turning chain of the previous row.

The open markers can also be used in knitting in the same way as the closed ones and placed on your needles. However, I have found that using these markers may be abit more harder, especially if the clasp is a lobster or an open hook. The lobster clasps are not exactly round so would not slide from needle to needle as well as the closed rings. The Leverback clasp would be more ideal but still not as smooth as the ring. The only perk would be if you accidently knitted the marker into your project, you could open the marker and remove it which you could not do with a closed ring. In being able to open up, the other downfall could be that they could open up and fall off your needle which would cause you to misplace where the marker should be in your project.

They are perfect for counting rows and tracking your progress. If you are working a pattern that repeats often, these markers can be placed on every few rows and you can count as you go. If you are needing to do a lot of rows, then a marker can be placed every 10 rows so you can keep track of rows in groups of tens. It is a lot easier than counting 100 individual rows. These are the type of markers that are placed in your work and not on your needle, so they need to be removable and the clasps easy to use.

So, in making up the markers I started to think in what I would like to have and use and really liked the idea of having specific markers for certain tasks. I have made up open markers (using the different clasps) for stating the wrong or right side of the project, the start or end of a row/round, row counters in either 1-10 or in 10’s. I have even made up markers designed for holding those dropped stitches (Oops and darn) so you can’t forget why those markers have been placed into your project.

One last item to talk about is all about the counting. How many of us have a pattern that tells us to knit so many rows …? Are you like me …? Try (without too much success) to keep tally in my head of the rows worked before the next pattern instruction? Especially if there is no paper and pen at hand and you are too lazy to get up and find it …. Yes, I still do keep tally on paper with a stroke if I have quite a few pattern rows to complete and still lost myself if I stop part way through as I need to head to bed. I have to admit that I would also keep going long past bedtime so I can ‘finish’ at a good stopping point in the pattern. I have also manually kept count of the rows in my head and still lost count. These row counters are great to use when you start your knitting or crocheting and at the end of your session you will be able to see just how much (or how little) you have accomplished.

In doing my research I came across this ingenious chain and wondered how I had ever done without it (as well as not known about it). It is a row counting chain that keeps track of your knitting rows from 1-99!!! As well as being practical (& ingenious) it is also so very pretty. At last a beautiful tool for keeping count, so much nicer than paper and pen. I know I have used the barrel row counting tool that you placed on the knitting needle, but I found those oh so boring and I always forgot to click forward at the end of a row …. Now all I need is to find patterns that require a lot of row counting …. Oh my, I am starting to sound like the Count from Sesame Street!!!

Row Counting Chain

I can hear you ask, So, how do you use this tool exactly? …

The chain is numbered 1 – 0 using beads and closed rings between each numbered bead. There is also a removable marker with a lobster clasp…

Basically, once you have completed (part way through to keep it secure) your first row, place the ring (between 1-2) onto your knitting needles. Change up to the next ring on your chain when you come back to the chain while knitting the next row. Continue like this, working your way through all rings on the chain, until you reach the zero ring and you have completed 10 rows. Place the lobster clasp onto the ring between 1 and 2 to represent the number 10. After completing the 10th row, restart at the first ring again and work your way down the chain again. Every 10 rows you move the lobster clasp to the next number ring.

For example, if you have completed 37 rows the lobster clasp should be on the ring between 3 and 4 and the knitting needle is in the ring between 7 and 8. This chain is ingenious, and you will never forget how many rows you have completed if you need to set the project aside halfway through completing a set number of rows.

I used the chain last night to do some knitting. I needed to knit 54 rows of rib (as well as keeping tabs on which was the right side). I was looking forward to using the counting chain and wondered how it would go … would it be awkward while knitting? …. I had knitted this item before and I manually kept count in my head, which was a total nightmare and not very practical, especially if you needed to take a break part way through… so on came the chain …. Part way through my first round I placed the needle into the ring between 1 and 2 and continued knitting. On the return row, I came up to the marker and literally slipped my right needle into the ring between 2 and 3 and slipped off the ring from my left hand needle. As simple as that! No hassle, I just had to remember to keep my chain to the front of my work and NOT knit the chain into my stitches! I kept on going, not needing to manually remember or write down how many rows I had knitted – it was always there on the chain for me to see. Once I came to the end of the chain – 0 -, I placed my lobster clasp marker into the ring between 1 and 2, to represent 10’s and on the next row, I moved my right hand needle into the first ring of the chain and continued working through the chain to 0 again.

This counting chain is so easy to use, and it wasn’t long before I had worked my 56 rows and the chain is still firmly in place on my needles telling me exactly how many rows I have worked. I just need to remove the chain when I come to it when knitting my next row. This pretty, practical tool has firmly earned its place as an ESSENTIAL tool in my knitting kit. I just know I will be wanting a counting chain in the different sizes to accommodate the various needle sizes that I use.

The chains are all made so each one is unique and definitely one of a kind as I use different beads and markers on each and every counting chain. The only common theme is the colours of the number beads and the small seed beads that I use with the number beads. However, the colourway of the seed beads is limited, in that I only use the same colour on about 4-5 chain sets and the colours are often limited. The end charms and the lobster clasp marker and unique and different for EACH chain. I wanted these chains to be unique and feel like treasure, so NOT ONE chain is the same. The counting chain comes in an organza pouch for safe keeping, along with a printed card on how to use them and the size of knitting needles they will fit up to. These would make ideal gifts for a knitter or yourself.

The row counting chain is only for knitting and cannot be used in crocheting. However, the other row counters with the opening clasps are great for crocheting and work just as well.

Don’t be afraid to use the stitch markers and use them often. Keep them in reach and keep them safe in a lovely tin. I can even help with that …. I have some lovely vintage tins that have arrived this morning that will be just so perfect for keeping your cute markers in. These tins are available on the website.

Lavender themed hinged tins for storing your markers in

I will be regularly updating the sections with new marker designs, and I have quite a few ideas for some more counting tools. So do keep a regular look on the website for newly added markers. I am wanting to have a large selection of handmade markers that are not only practical, but also unique in being limited editions. So when you purchase any markers, you know that they are NOT mass produced and will only be a limited line. This applies mainly to the markers that use the beads and charms, as I purchase in small orders. I feel that in this way, the markers are that extra bit special. You know that you are purchasing a ‘one-off’ marker that cannot be mass produced.

One can never have enough markers and there is no need to just use the one for multi tasks and forget exactly what its task was for. Have a collection of markers that have their own individual tasks and are clear about what you need to remember. Adorn your knitting and crochet with handmade unique markers.

Stitch and Progress Markers – the reason why I have been neglecting Facebook …..

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Alyssa was talking to me a few weeks back on how her tutor at tech had suggested to her about making jewellery. She asked if I had done it before and so forth…. I was abit taken back as I had never known her to be interested in jewellery …. I had to remind myself that she is nearly 19 years old, and her choices/interests are changing. I also remembered that she was probably too young to remember that I had gone through a stage of making jewellery and still had so much beading supplies! So, we spent an enjoyable couple of hours hunting out the jewellery boxes and going through them and seeing what I had. It was like finding a treasure box! There were so many lovely wee finds and jewellery that had been finished or part finished….

Alyssa claimed quite a few lovely pieces from old antique jewellery that I had found in charity shops and was able to make them up into earrings for herself. There were bags of seed beads that I used regularly in lace shawls that I had made up over the years – and the most recent shawl …. Latisha’s wedding shawl…

It also got me thinking on, just how much I enjoyed making jewellery and doing the beading as well as thinking (with some sadness) that I just do not have the time to do the craft now … Alyssa is all inspired to start on making fashion jewellery …. And is now showing the tutors and fellow students in her class on how to make up earrings and bracelets to sell at their upcoming craft morning at the tech as part of her course.

So, you are probably wondering (at this point) exactly what this all has to do with stitch and progress markers ….

Well … I use stitch markers all the time with my knitting. They are essential when knitting Top Down garments and even more so when you are knitting a complex lace shawl pattern where you need to keep an eye on the pattern repeats/sections. I also used special hook markers for crochet, or to remind me what the start of a row was when knitting socks ….

I use my faithful KnitPro markers that come in two sizes – extra small and extra-large – as well as two colours – pink and blue. Quite boring really and restrictive when the pattern advises you to use numerous colours (& you only have the two colours) to help you to remember what each section in the knitting is for …. I also NEVER seem to have enough of the right size. This was especially true when I was knitting the wedding shawl and needed to add in more markers on every NEW pattern repeat. I think I had 50 odd markers on my needle towards the end. I can assure you that I DID NOT have anywhere near 50 markers to put on my needle! So this was where I was so glad that Alyssa had gone through that stage (Just like every other child to the point that they were impossible to buy at one point) of the bungie band thingies that was a global craze so many years ago!! For the life of me … I CANNOT remember the proper name! Those horrid, brightly coloured, EXTREMELY tiny rubber bands that were made into bracelets, charms, key rings, and numerous other items. The bands that were so easily lost and found all over the house or down a small person’s/pet’s throat! The ones that now lie abandoned and they can not be given away! Alyssa’s vast collection lay abandoned in a drawer for quite a while …. Until I discovered an alternative use for them.

They make brilliant alternative stitch markers! They are made from rubber, so can stretch and are an endless, smooth circle. They fit snuggly between stitches on your needles and can be easily moved from needle to needle. They also come in a vast selection of colours. The only downfall … they have the tendency to flick across the room if you are not careful, while you are trying to transfer the bungie band from needle to needle! But never fear …. There is always plenty more of those wee bands ….

Now, I do love using unique and lovely tools with my crafting … but somehow think that those wee rubber bands DO NOT classify as unique and lovely craft tools. They are certainly unique ….

I recall that many years ago I had acquired some hand crafted stitch markers …. Ever so pretty …. But not very practical. Two had been made with a split ring for the ring that goes onto the needle. Not great, as the split on the ring kept snagging onto the yarn, which isn’t the best when you are using delicate (& expensive) yarn. So those were put to the back of my knitting notions container. The other two were made with a beading wire which created a smooth loop to go over the needles … perfect …. As there was NO split to snag the yarn. However, the loop area was able to move … in other words, as the beads could move up (&down) the wire, the loop became smaller, which made it harder to be able to slide your needle in to transfer it to the other needle. So, guess what happened to those markers.

As time moved on, I still went back to those stitch markers (when I ran out of the plastic plain stitch marker rings) to see if they had improved with lack of use. Sadly, NO.

So, that brings us back to disused jewellery box….

There was so many lovely beads and charms lying in wee containers, all begging to be made up into wonderfully unique and lovely stitch markers. But definitely with NO splits in the needle ring and no moving loops! So, I did some research (on faithful Google) and several hours (ahem, maybe longer) I had discovered some wonderful things in the world of stitch markers! There are also markers called progress markers, using opening clasps that are used for crochet as well as knitting. There are markers used with a specific purpose – to keep track of the beginning of the round if knitting/crocheting in the round, the right side and wrong side of your project, along with so much more. Stitch markers have entered the world of creativeness! I also found some other wonderful tools used for counting and so forth. My creative juices over flowed ….

I placed some orders for the tool items I would need …. As well as some other loveliness that just kept jumping into my basket along the way. Alyssa was also getting into the spirit (and obsession) of this jewellery making lark. The purchases started arriving in the post and the pile kept growing …. Alyssa was itching (along with myself) to dive right in and start creating. However, there were more important tasks (workwise) to be done and more importantly, the items needed to be sorted, labelled and put into containers so it made it easier to know what was what and where it was. It is about the crafters obsession for being organised in a very messy crafty way. So, the two of us spent a few hours (which quickly turned into a day) sorting through everything and putting into assigned containers and labelling for easier reference. A long but necessary task and OH, so satisfying at the end.

Then, came the time to actually start creating the markers up. A few turned into a small pile which grew into a HUGE pile. And would you believe, I am still wanting to make more (& use them). Who says markers need to be boring?

I got to thinking that maybe not everyone would know quite how to use the markers to their best protential …. or maybe not know exactly what is available ….. So, of course me being me …. I thought that it maybe it would be best to actually do up blogs on the different markers and what they are used for. Over the next few weeks, I will release a blog on the different sort of markers and how they are (can be) used. I knew of stitch markers to use for knitting the top down technique and in shawl knitting, but there is so much more ways to use these wonderful wee tools. I am actually shocked that I had not heard of them and now wonder how I did without them over the years.

I also discovered some other wee items/tools that I will be making and adding to the Nifty Needles products. I am all about useful tools that we just can’t do without but are also pretty in appearance.

The stitch/progress markers will be released shortly, just in time for Christmas as these would make amazing gifts for any crafter. I didn’t quite think everything through …. All I focused on was making up a selection and forgot about the time it takes in photographing them, writing up descriptions etc, and then uploading everything to the website …. So I think I need to step back …. Slow down and realise that things just take time ….. BUT, it is hard when your mind overflows with creative juices and you just want to do it all NOW …..

So do come back and find out about all the uses of decorative markers ….. I am sure you will be convinced that these are the perfect wee tools that you just cant do without ….

The next post will all be about the stitch and progress markers for both Knitting and crochet

Celebrate 1 year of Website

Sitting here today at the computer working on upcoming projects for the business and thinking about how this weekend (Sunday to be exact) marks the one-year anniversary of when our new website was launched. It is hard to believe that it has been a year (and what a year) and you have to wonder, just where has the time gone.

It is also a good opportunity to reflect back on how the website came about and what I have achieved in the past year and how to mark the special occasion of having the website for a year. It is funny how the website was borne due to COVID and that 18 months on, COVID still plays a huge part in how we continue to go about our daily life. It has been a hard time for us all and at times I feel we all wonder if we will ever get back to pre-COVID. What I have learnt is that we all need to take life day by day and be grateful for the positives in our life. It can be hard at times to remain positive. However, I take those small positives and focus on them – I have several community workshops booked and while feeling slightly nervous, I am also excited to be out again amongst others doing what I enjoy – crafting and sharing skills. It will almost be like being pre-COVID, except for the masks, vaccines and social distancing. But there is no harm in hoping for ‘normal’ workshops.

Community workshops

I am sitting here today thinking about the new website and how it came about. I have to be thankful for the virus and government restrictions, as I may not have achieved what I have done in 2020, if the world had not dramatically changed. Without the Saturday zoom sessions with my ‘crafting’ buddies and spending a relaxed afternoon crafting, chatting, laughing, (drinking) and putting the world to rights, the website may never have been created. From those zoom sessions, came the idea and birth of an online shop and new improved website. Months of hard work (from everyone in the new ‘Nifty Needles tech/management team) followed – research, compiling a list of stock, patterns, deciding on categories and what goes where, taking photos, inputting the products onto the website and writing up descriptions for everything – to get the online website that we now have. Sometimes, sharing your dreams and aspirations out loud to friends, and with support, you can achieve your dreams.

As a team, we discussed on the ‘right’ time to launch the new website. We agreed that it was a special day to remember and celebrate. So, with it being my birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to launch the website on my birthday to mark the occasion. Not that my birthday is anything that I wish to remember, another year older (& hopefully wiser) but it would be an easy date to remember when we launched the website.  So with my birthday looming up (ever so quickly) it means that the website has been up and running for a year. I think I would just prefer to think of the date as Nifty Needles birthday.

It is also a good opportunity to reflect back on the past year. It has been a rough year for us all, but it is best to focus on the good and achievements. The start of the year became with a long and hard lockdown, the attitudes of people changing. It was hard at times to see just how society/people changed but it was heart-warming to know that there was always that positive network of support when it was needed the most.

When I look back at what has happened this year, I am amazed that one of my dreams come true, the purchase of a longarm machine and the ever-growing need to practise and use the machine. I love being creative on the machine and seeing quilts, etc., come to life under the needle of the machine and my hands. There is still so much I want to learn and achieve on the machine. One thing I have come to realise, you are never too old to learn a new skill and extending our techniques and abilities.

I still have so much more that I want to learn and achieve, while Nifty Needles grows and blossoms.

So, I felt that the best way to celebrate the birthday of the Nifty Needles website is to have a 20% discount on everything in the website – notions, patterns, kits, clearance and so forth – from today through to midnight Thursday 30 September 2021. Just use the code – BIRTHDAY – at the checkout. I will also have some free giveaways to celebrate the anniversary of the website, so stay tuned for those.

Giveaways

Finally, I want to thank every one of you for being here with me (virtually) throughout 2020/21, supporting and encouraging me. Hopefully I have helped in some way to keep you all sane with crafting and my designs/kits.