Francoise – part 1

May I introduce you to my new (almost finished) Francoise dress?

DSCF8479 DSCF8487

The pattern is Francoise by Tilly and the Buttons, and I submitted it 10 minutes before the deadline for the competition last night. I am exhausted and I need to adjust the back. I also need an invisible zip foot and to redo the zip again as I’m not happy with it. The bust area is a weird shape but it’s not half as bad as it was at 10pm last night when I was getting frustrated with the thing. I need to consider my options for making it a bit less weird.

The main part of the dress was supposed to be made in the diagonal stripe print from S’more Love by the Comstocks, so on discovering I was short on time (i.e. I cut the pattern pieces out yesterday) I substituted in this vintage bed linen cotton. The sleeves are Jersey, just because I wanted to try it! I love the sleeves.

Buy the pattern for yourself HERE!

I’ll have more on this when I get some better photos and have made the adjustments- in the rush we hadn’t noticed that the camera was set to Macro.

DSCF8491 DSCF8494

Also only one Christmas item left now! I finished off the cushion for my MIL yesterday too, with a touch of piping and a standard envelope back.

AOB – I need to announce the giveaway winner! I added the extra entry comments from my mini quilt post to the end of the giveaway comments, which meant there were a total of 434 entries!

And the winner is… Robyn!

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 09.56.39

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 09.57.25



Gigglish Allsorts

This post has absolutely nothing to do with the kids TV programme from the 90s.

A bit of housekeeping. There’s three projects on the list to complete before Christmas and as of last night, that list is now two.

DSCF8475 DSCF8476

I finished off this Sew Together bag so now I have two for gifting. My remaining two projects are a bear wall hanging for himself which is now quilted but it needs binding and a hanging sleeve adding. The other thing is a cushion for my MIL which I keep forgetting about. I have this pieced star block so far but it needs a border and cushion-ising.


In the comments on my last post about the sewing machines (my garage looks like a machine repair shop at the moment), Wendy asked if I have a Smokey and a now-dead Smelly, what will I call my new Brother machine. As you can tell, my naming tradition is a bit tongue-in-cheek as I don’t really “get” it when people name their cars or machines, so staying with tradition, this is now called Scarface.


It was better than Scratchy which was my first thought.

DSCF8470 DSCF8468

I’ve had my black friday purchases delivered. I have got an idea for the bundle at the top already (Eclectic Elements 2) but I have two other quilts to make at least before I get round to it. The other bundle is Trail Mix by Bo Bunny which I got a little extra of the cream bear print to add to my bear fabric collection. No plans for this one yet. I’ve now got a fair few masculine prints and of course this helps top up my recently depleted brown prints reserve.

Also public service announcement, there’s just over a month to submit entry forms for 2015’s Quilt and Stitch Village. I think I will enter three categories this time, including the 3D one! This year they have a modern quilting category too if that floats your boat.

As I’ve not posted a photo of Hank for a couple of days, I thought I’d start losing readers if I didn’t put up another one pretty quick. Not sure what this strange expression I caught him doing this morning is about…


The one where Kerry accidentally buys two sewing machines

Background: Last weekend at the EMMQG meeting I intended to make a couple of stockings for the charity collection thing we were going to contribute to. Anyway I popped out Smelly, the smaller of my machines (Smokey being the Husqvarna), a machine that literally smells after a while of being used that was from either Lidl or Aldi that my Dad had bought me for Christmas when we lived in the house before last, so we must be talking at least 8 years old. It lived in the loft for a few years until I fixed the last problem it had. This time though, the stitch selector dial was somehow wonky when I put it in my bag and wouldn’t go back into place but I thought nothing of it.Until I started sewing.

It just chewed the fabric. I tried adjusting the presser foot tension,checked the feed dogs, had the stitch length on maximum and still it was stuck sewing on the spot. I gave up and OH kindly drove over and brought me my bear quilt to sit and glue instead.

I like to have a back-up machine, especially since I usually have some sort of publication project on the go and Hank is prone to such delightful activities as this…

So on I went to eBay to see if I could pick up a cheap working but ugly machine from the 90s or early 00s with a generic low shank foot attachment that was light and portable enough to bring to meetings, especially since these look to increase in number from January. I put an offer in for a Toyota machine in Nottingham whilst still sat in the meeting, but I didn’t win.

Then a few days later I bought this one (“Sew Land” apparently, which is code for JVC-own-brand- but if it works well I don’t care what the brand is, my last one was a Lervia/Aldi/Lidl one after all) from Leicester at auction…


And then I had an offer I’d all but forgotten about accepted for this Brother PS-33 machine from Birmingham at about the same time. Oops.


I’ve been driving around collecting them over the weekend and given them a test side-by-side before deciding which to keep.

First off, the Sew Land has a top load bobbin, which I prefer. Front loaders always seem a bit more temperamental to me and of course you can’t see when you’re running out of thread. It only straight stitches as far as I can tell, though the manual is excellent, I just need to take the time to read it.

The Brother has a one step buttonhole, plus a quick stitch selection which I prefer too. The Sew Land threads from a spool at the back which-in my opinion- makes it a reasonably good looking machine despite effectively being a toy. It’s teeny too. Comparing build quality (i.e. is it going to die if it falls over in my car) it’s not great as it’s mostly plastic bits- including the presser foot-  and it’s also noisy when in use and a bit slow for my liking too. In weight terms, I could carry it forever just with my little finger.


The Brother meanwhile is in a shocking state. After having to go back to the address as the seller wasn’t in when I said I’d call round, I should have been a bit less shocked to see so many bits broken off such as the spool pin and bobbin winder, a dented needle plate and the reverse stitch button pressed back into the machine, not to mention the crazy amount of scratches that I tried to bleach to hide them a bit and the accessories box not fixing on. I’m looking at a quote for all the bits I need and I have been emailed a manual by a shop, but the accessories box will have to be cellotaped on. At the time of buying it I was only advised about the bobbin winder and also that it “needed a new needle”… -_-

When it comes to stitching, I tested it on some scraps. The Sew Land is the one with the red stitching on the left (note: I set it for short and for long stitches but I can’t tell the difference) the green is the Brother…


After a bit of faffing with needle position I found the sweet spot on the Brother for a perfect 1/4″ seam.

Whilst I don’t like or dislike either machine, keeping both is a bit silly, so I’ve decided to keep the Brother, purely because the stitch is better and it’s a lot quieter. If anyone is interested in the Sewline one let me know and you can have it for slightly less than the price I bought it for- £20- (plus not-very-much-as-its-so-light postage if not collecting from NW Leicestershire)! It might just make a good present for a sewing curious child that isn’t worth taking the risk on a “proper” machine.

And hey, if anyone is interested in ol’ Smelly for free, you’re welcome- for spares or repairs- else it’s off to the tip on the next visit. Just drop me an email :)

Sew Mama Sew giveaway day


I was debating whether or not to participate this year, but since I plan to enter all the other giveaways out there, it’s only fair I offer something of my own.


This prize consists of 10 fat eighths (ish?) of what I believe to be Liberty lawn. I recently acquired them in a swap (hence my uncertainty) but know for a fact there are lots of people out there who could do these gorgeously soft fabrics more justice than I  will, so it only seems fair to offer them out before I get attached. And in the interest of transparency, I forgot all about giveaway day and ran out of time to sort something else out. ;) I also include two purse frames in the prize, they are the glue in kind.

To enter, simply leave a comment. If you need inspiration, why not tell me who your favourite fabric designer is, or manufacturer?

For a second entry, please follow me on Instagram – I’m @pennydog – or follow my blog if you prefer (or you don’t Instagram) and comment below that you have done so, or that you already follow me. You’re welcome to follow my blog and my Instagram if you wish but I will only count it once :)

And as a twist, for a third entry, leave me a comment on my last blog post too. There’s no need to tell me on this post that you’ve done so, I’ll just add the two posts together when I draw the winner.

Entries accepted from anywhere in the World and I will draw the winner on Saturday 13th December 2014 sometime quite early in the morning (GMT time).

Enjoy the rest of giveaway day! The button below will take you back to the supplies giveaway list.

Better to give than to receive?

Not if you’re me, I got the best mini in the #IGminiswap, suckerrrrs!


I’m dead chuffed with this, it was genuinely my favourite in #flossysgroup, if not overall (though I do have a hypothetical ‘highly commended’ list). I went back and looked at my contribution to the WIP images posted and I was pretty rubbish at encouraging my lovely partner, @imasavonasac – Sami- that she was going the right way. I blame it on her being so quick off the mark, which clashed with the wedding times, sorry Sami!


Anyway, this is just awesome, I love a quirky pattern, I really love the fussy cuts and you know what? I’ve publicly declared I don’t really “get” the appeal of AMH before and that I only like a few of her prints (daisies from Pretty Potent, some of the True Colors range)…. now it may be because these are tone on tone blenders which are my go to fabric choice, but I love this! Colours, patterns, everything.


I even got some Liberty fat eighths and chocolate (most of which now eaten). I’m thinking of making the Liberty fabrics my Sew Mama Sew giveaway prize since I’m badly prepared this year and because they’re a bit too nice for me to feel like I’ve done them justice. So smooth!

So that’s my receiving. A little reminder of what I sent as @katealicea received her package this week complete with Schokobons, large fabric scraps, a couple of Love Quilting kits and a pug hoop that if I showed you earlier, it may have given the game away that my mini was on it’s way to Kate. The hoops are quick to do, I traced some key puggy features with an erasable marker onto fabric and then battered it into submission with my sewing machine. This is what I was working on when I decided that the tension possibly still isn’t 100% but she loves it and that’s all that matters.


Go follow Sami on IG, now. She’s pretty amazing at what she does.

I get to start something new!

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this picture a few weekends ago…

Well the design has been commissioned and the plan is a quilt that is 84″ square from 16 of these “Card Trick Reloaded” blocks. It’s going to be largely solids, but I have a nice new blade and I’ve got a bit of cutting done already. I’m pulling stash fabrics except where I am low on solids (I’m looking at you bright red and medium blue)- I had to go to Fabric Guild for those. There’s another quilt after this one too. I do love a good reason to start a new project. That Georgetown project will have to wait a little longer…


And here’s the EQ visualisation of the transparency design…


Once the Christmas sewing is finally put to bed (I’m looking at you, Bear quilt), I’ll be chain piecing these blocks. I have a feeling this will be my Christmas/New Year Limbo project.

What thread for quilting?

For about the first year I was quilting, I was a bit unsure about thread choices when it came to actual free motion quilting. It was actually the scariest thing to figure out because I didn’t want to ruin my brand new quilt top. If I had multiple colours in a quilt, which was the right one to choose? If I chose white, wouldn’t that show up and overpower my design? In the end I had to just try some things and see what happened.


I had read around the Internet that you had to match the type of thread to the material it was being sewn into so that the strength matches, so cotton thread for cotton fabric, etc. After doing a couple of Craftsy classes and a bit more reading I discovered that whilst this might be the case for piecing (the thread that holds it together shouldn’t be stronger and able to cut through the fabric under stress), it didn’t hold true for quilting. The quilting holds the layers together, but the actual two dimensional surface is the bit that is important- all those seams provide a lot of opportunity to open up, but you don’t need to worry quite so much about your backing coming away from your wadding, etc.

So yes, I use polyester thread regularly (but not always) when quilting, I particularly like to use a polyester like The Bottom Line in the bobbin if budget allows. It’s thinner so you get more on the bobbin and also the tension seems to be better on my machine. I have also had some success with a much cheaper Coats Moon polyester throughout.


This was the main thing I couldn’t get my head around. I thought variegated with all the fabric colours might be best but then you can’t predict where that colour will ‘land’. In the end I just tried it, with surprising results. On most colours, a natural/ecru thread disappears pretty well. I didn’t expect that! I’m a bit more relaxed about the whole thing now. Do you remember that quilt I showed you from Quilt and Stitch Village earlier in the year that was black thread on a white wholecloth (below)? That actually looks really good, but you’d have to be so precise with your stitching. If you’re like me and less neat, a matching-ish colour or ecru is better whilst you develop your skills I find.

To find a matching colour, choose the predominant colour in your quilt and lay a bit of unravelled thread on it. It’s easier to see how it will blend than comparing it with the whole spool and will be a bit more accurate in terms of the amount of light on it will make it look lighter on the spool, but when not all bunched up with a load more lustrous thread, it will look more subtle and darker and more forgiving too.



Above is an example where there’s a lot of contrast and thread choice would be hard to choose. You could quilt the different fabrics in different colours but I just quilted sections in good old ecru and it still looks just as I intended it to.


Here’s the thing, I use both 40 and 50 weight threads and I can’t say I’ve noticed much difference. The theory is that the lower the number the thicker the thread, so of course 12wt is going to look chunky monkey. But between 40 and 50 I’m really struggling, so as long as I keep the thread consistent throughout if I empty a spool, I don’t really worry too much. Does anyone else feel the same way?

Brain taxation

I’m sure you’ve heard already, but there’s a bit of a problem come 1st January when it comes to our little businesses, VAT and selling digital patterns and other products within the EU. If this comes as a surprise, here is a very good blog article explaining it in layman’s terms.

My main personal concerns are:

  • What will happen to my BOM?
  • What about selling my patterns on Craftsy in general?
  • What will this mean in terms of availability to me?

I’ll start with point 3. This affects pattern designers the World over, not just in the UK. I’m not sure how it will work for those say, in the US, maybe they can use the UK Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) to sort out their sales to the EU. I’m struggling to find much on it, and I’m sure they are too.

If the pattern designers of the US, Canada, Australia and anywhere else that isn’t in the EU are going to block sales of their patterns to us in the UK as one of the EU member states, that is going to have a knock-on effect. Imagine this, say the Sew Together bag for example wasn’t released until 2015. That would mean that none of us in the UK would be sewing it because either a) it would be only made for sale to those outside the EU to avoid the US-based designer from getting into a tax mess, or b) it may have been enough to scare off the designer from releasing the pattern for sale at all.

We are going to be poorer in terms of what will be available for us. I’m finding this pretty scary. If I want something I will have to wait ’til I go to Canada in July and download it whilst on holiday through hotel wi-fi, it seems a bit of a backwards thing to have to do.

This leads to points 1 and 2. On the other hand I can still sell to the US, Canada, etc which is great for me. BUT the headache of trying to electronically block those in the other EU countries somehow myself is not going to happen, nor am I going to be able to figure out my way through the VAT rules and paperwork, and I certainly can’t afford an accountant. But the BOM must go on, and after nine months of work already on this, I don’t want to start making it free from now on. It’s not fair to those who have paid for some of the designs already. Equally, with nine months of work behind me I am not prepared to end it prematurely either- that would be even worse. The BOM must go on.

Third party sites are- theoretically- supposed to be responsible, according to HMRC (check out this flowchart- pinched from Ysolda). However, Craftsy- my current portal of choice- seem to be leaning towards the we’re-not-interested-in-helping-you angle. When paid for patterns nearly completely disappear on 1st January, I’m sure they will think about changing their minds, but really, we’re too close to that date to be sticking our heads in the sand. Here’s a list of third parties currently being more cooperative- great if you’re a knitter, not so much if you do practically anything else.

My solution I think will be that the free pattern will remain on Craftsy for the month it is free. Once it goes up to $1.50 price, or once the full collection is put together at the end of the run I will be transferring over to Etsy.

Don’t get me wrong, Etsy are being just as crappy as Craftsy over this whole thing, but here is the solution, for me at least.


It’s a plug-in for Etsy. I plan to pay the $8 a month subscription (which basically means I need to sell six block patterns a month to see $1 return) and then list my patterns as physical good and then they deliver on my behalf, with the ability to block out France, Germany and friends. I don’t want to do it, but it may be the easiest solution until Mr VC re-examines this mess (and the thousands of VAT returns for about £2.50).

I’m also considering a co-op with another seller that I won’t name just in case she wants to keep things on the low for the time being. She will register for MOSS and then act as an agent for other sellers in the same boat, though I’m not sure if I will be a good fit for her given the tininess of my patterns (my future bigger ones may well be though, but I get less business from those) this will mean that International selling continues as normal. We shall see what the future brings.

In the meantime, if you haven’t signed the petition to restore the usual £81k VAT threshold, please do. Once the target signatories has been reached, it is supposed to be discussed in parliament, and I think it needs to be discussed, it’s really not been thought through very well. The scariest thing is that this will continue to be a problem in the future as it will also apply to selling physical goods to the EU in the next phase. Lets get this looked at and acknowledged now.

Latest update – Ysolda Teague, Issy Zinaburg and other prominently outraged people in this will be meeting with HMRC officials. Keep your eye out on Enterprise Nation over the coming days and weeks!

P.S. I’m possibly still not fully understanding this, please correct me in the comments if I’ve interpreted anything incorrectly.

English Country Garden BOM – Block 9 – Pansy

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with this in the new year yet after all the VAT MOSS talk, but rest assured, this will be finished one way or another. I must admit to being a bit confused by the new law coming in, and it seems HMRC are too, but I may actually be OK to continue this through Craftsy, but I’m hoping they release a statement soon to clarify this. Anyway, for now, here’s your pansy block!

The next one is out on the 5th January, this is the last pattern of 2014 and this pattern is free to download until then. Previous templates are $1.50 in my Craftsy shop if you missed out.

Click here to download

This pattern includes the same instructions for applique as before, and the same instructions as the Irisblock for the background, but with new templates for the pansy. The instructions are: making bias tape stems, turned edge and raw edge machine applique, piecing the log cabin background, thread choices and the pattern in standard and mirrored formats depending on which type of applique you opt for.

I’m on the end of an e-mail if you get stuck, just leave a comment here or email me.

For previous posts on the BOM, please click the button below. Don’t forget to share your photos in the Flickr group!

The macaroni effect

I’ve started on the bear quilt and I’m very glad I have…

There’s something very enjoyable about the cut, stick, repeat way these quilts come together. There’s no sewing and I can be more sociable- I can do batches in front of the TV rather than out in my sewing room all night. It’s exactly like being at primary school with poster paints, glitter, pasta and pritt sticks on sugar paper, it feels like ultimate creative freedom of expression, with the fun of making a bit of a mess at the same time.

Also you can use colours and fabrics that you might think are a bit bleugh and by being just the right shade, it transforms into something you actually really like. It’s quite addictive to watch it grow and it makes me want to do nothing else.

I have some donations of dark green coming very soon, I have only the tiniest scraps of those and I need a half yard or so for the tree line. I will have to stop at some point, but for now, this is less than an evening and an hour before work’s progress.