I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!














It was a beautiful morning to potter around Cirencester and shop local.  I had a few things on a list; we needed to buy meat, vegetables and stuff for the weekend and neither of us felt much like going further afield.  We were out early in the dazzling sunshine, noting the vast difference in temperature between the shops in the sun and those in the shade.




It was especially noticeable in the Market Place, where the stallholders in the Farmers’ Market were cloaked in deep shade until almost lunchtime.




When I get the chance, I love to shop like this; to visit the greengrocer, the butcher and the baker.  It’s fun to chat with each of them and of course, to observe our fellow customers.




Like the chap in front of us in the greengrocer who wanted to know the source of the dates on sale before buying them.  “Tunisia” appeared to be an acceptable answer…so off he popped and filled a bag.  We’d have liked to know more about his reasoning but of course, we’re English and wouldn’t dream of asking!  We were buying root vegetables to put in the pot with the rather tempting shin beef we’d just bought, imagining a spot of comfort food for supper tonight.




Who can resist bringing home a little Spring sunshine?  They won’t last very long but for a few days, the kitchen windowsill is a little brighter and the sweet scent makes washing up that bit more pleasant.




Wrapped up warm and with beef stew and dumplings on our mind then, It’s hard to imagine that just a year ago today, we were boarding our lovely cruise ship to set off on an exciting adventure having just enjoyed a few sunny days with our sweet friends in Florida.  We have to wait a little longer for our 2015 adventure, but looking up to the blue sky in Cirencester, it reminded me of those palm-tree fringed skies even if we are wearing several more layers of clothes today than we were this time  last year!


Guess what




I found the knitting mojo.

I think it was behind the sofa, hiding from a sewing machine with a cutwork attachment fitted.


With renewed determination


I opened the Designworks software this morning to complete the next exercise, the Cutwork Border Design.  The objects of this exercise were:

  • Working with Create Shape tools
  • Circular Array
  • Horizontal and Vertical Alignment
  • Sequence Manager
  • Tips for sewing out

Hmm, I could have used those last tips before now, but hey, I’m starting the project with a positive frame of mind and an air of confidence!  I created a new file and began the exercise, starting by drawing a circle with a diameter of 15mm and a 15.6mm x 13mm trapezoid below it.




Bearing in mind the relative sizes of those shapes and that the design fits in a hoop which is 255mm x 145mm, how would you interpret the instruction to adjust the positioning of the trapezoid so that it’s centred 73cm below the circle outline?   Yes, I imagine that, like me, you thought “oops, typo there” and made it 73mm instead?  But a little further consideration and I realised the most sensible measurement was 7.3mm.  Not one typo but two for the price of one!




But it didn’t end there.  The next row of shapes was to be positioned .5mm from the previous row.  Now, I admire precision, but .5mm?  I think that was supposed to be 5mm.

(I thought the Swiss were pretty accurate in such things but I’m beginning to reassess)




By now, I was getting used to the typos and the inconsistencies, so I immediately adjusted the instruction to position one small shape 5cm away from the tip of the trapezoid to 5mm, but with each mental adjustment, I lost a little more confidence in the likelihood of a successful outcome.


Fullscreen capture 18012015 161533


Anyway, I completed the design, so I saved it and exported to the USB stick.  It was my intention to cut it several times from the same fabric but to vary the starch/stiffening method to identify which worked best.




Having cut it once, however, my plans were revised.  Once again, the end result was sub-optimal though actually, the cutting of the shapes had been pretty accurate and rather neater than the photo above suggests.  What made it look especially raggy was the satin stitches on the edges – or just off the edges in some areas.

I thought I could do better.


Fullscreen capture 18012015 161341


Firstly, I created a smaller design to fiddle about with.  What’s more frustrating than watching a huge shape being stitched out having recognised within the first five minutes that it’s not going to work as hoped?  So, I used the basic idea in the Bernina workbook to create something similar and worked my way through it whilst thinking carefully about the suggested settings.  Where the exercise stated a cutting offset of 0mm, I made sure the stitching line was offset by 1mm so the machine didn’t stitch in thin air.  I created a wider satin stitch around the cut areas and watched the “slow draw” of the design very carefully to make sure the edges were going to be covered.  I included a couple of extra passes around the shapes to create a stronger edge to each cut out area and held my breath as it stitched out.




The end result isn’t perfect but it’s far better than before and I feel that at last, I’m getting somewhere.

My problem lies with the prescriptive instructions in the workbook, from which I’m supposed to learn how to create successful designs and understand how to manage the settings.  I don’t learn well from being told to “set x at 0.5mm” without an accompanying explanation of why I’m setting it at 0.5mm and not 0.7mm….that’s assuming there isn’t a typo in that instruction anyway. Without an explanation of these settings how can I understand why it might be better in some cases to adjust x or y depending on the fabric/the design/whatever.  By simply following the step by step instructions slavishly, I learn nothing except confirm that I can follow a sequence of written instructions – something I’m pretty confident about already.

So, as the afternoon draws to an end, I feel that I am getting somewhere at last and I’ve learned a fair bit.  Mostly, that is to ignore the workbook and use my own experience/common sense to work it out for myself!


Today’s masterpiece




Is nothing to write home about (as my Mum would have said).  I’d hoped for better, I’ll admit.


and then?


My bleat for help to the Designworks FB group received an almost instantaneous reply from a couple of people, including the genius Adeline.


Fullscreen capture 12012015 123028


What more could I ask?  Thrilled with such a speedy answer – and keen to crack on whilst it was all still in my head – I shot back down into the studio and followed her advice.


Fullscreen capture 12012015 105614


It worked a charm!  I saved and resisted the temptation to try stitching it out there and then, for it was late Sunday evening and probably not the best time to begin.




This morning, I prepared the fabric carefully but couldn’t wait to try it out.  I had some work to do first though, so exercised a little self discipline and completed that before switching my machine on Winking smile




My first attempt wasn’t too bad.  I didn’t hoop the fabric as accurately as I might have done – you can see the cross that’s supposed to be the centre.  But it didn’t matter, because my main interest was to see what happens when by simply stitching it out.  First the outline of the shape was stitched in a running stitch as a placement guide.  I ironed the shape in place then, and watched as the shape was stitched another couple of times.  The next step was the decorative stitch, which covered some of my earlier inaccuracy in placing the shape.




The precision is impressive as is the way in which the stitches are formed consistently.




I quickly lined another one up to reinforce my learning!




So, I need to sort something out about that puckering in the middle, but apart from that (and the poor colour in this last photo, taken in a slightly different place from the others – sorry!) I’m pretty pleased with the results.

Couldn’t have done it without a great deal of support though, for which I’m grateful.  What would we do without online friends?