Hello May!

By Judith on May 3, 2019
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Happy May to everyone!


I hope you all enjoyed your Easter break.


As a self-confessed workaholic I have to really focus on ‘not working’ and allowing my mind some down time (not easy for a self-employed sole trader!).



As part of my ‘word for the year’ – CULTIVATE, I’ve been working on cultivating rest and regeneration, not just physically but creatively and spiritually too.


I’m still learning how to do this well, and am very much a work in progress!  One way I’ve been doing this is by reading inspiring authors on personal leadership, like Brene Brown.


In her book ‘Daring Greatly’, Brene talks about the importance of being our vulnerable and authentic selves, not bowing to the ‘never (good, thin, happy, wealthy, successful ….) enough’ culture but instead resting in the knowledge that our best effort is always enough; we are enough. The strive for perfectionism and the glorification of busyness erodes the mental health of individuals, families, societies, nations. I know this to be true because I’ve seen it and I’ve felt it.


So if, like me, you want to learn how to cultivate authenticity, self-compassion, a resilient spirit, gratitude and joy, intuition and trust, meaningful work, creativity (yes!), and play and rest (yes, yes!) then I highly recommend to you Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  Her honesty is refreshing and her professional research in vulnerabililty, shame and wholeheartedness eye opening!


“Dare to be the adults we want our children to be.” Brene Brown



Another opportunity for me to cultivate rest and regeneration comes with good weather, a beautiful location and a camera!


We were blessed over Easter with some cracking weather, which meant I could get out and about a bit with my camera.


Swan at Mount Stewart National Trust, Co. Down
Bangor Walled Garden
Bangor Walled Garden
Rowallane Gardens, National Trust, Saintfield
Rowallane Gardens, National Trust, Saintfield
Rowallane Gardens, National Trust, Saintfield


Mount Stewart, National Trust, Co. Down


Taking pictures enables me to notice details, to stay in the present, to connect my surroundings with those I’m with, to stop and smell the roses (sometimes literally!).



If you’ve never tried it, next time you go out to a beautiful park, garden, beach, woodland walk, bring a camera.  You don’t have to be skilled at taking the photos. But I guarantee your mental and emotional health will benefit greatly!


(All the photos I took are available here in my Facebook Albums)




A new month means a new Quilting Term of classes, workshops and endless creativity at the studio!


With each new term I switch out the quilts on display and re-theme the display table.



Over the next few posts I’ll show you what we have on display, and links to available patterns and tutorials.


So come back soon for the start of my Spring into Summer ’19 series!


Happy sewing!


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Inspiring Women

By Judith on November 23, 2018
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I’m so privileged to be surrounded by inspiring women!  My mum, my Grandmothers, my brilliant besties, not to mention my 3 amazing daughters who I’m ridiculously proud of!


My girls


And then there are all the lovely ladies who come to my classes.  I’m honoured to know some of their stories, struggles and triumphs!


Several weeks ago I had the most wonderful encounter with a lady I have long admired.


Rachel McBride Visual Artist


This is Rachel McBride, visual artist.  I first met Rachel several years ago at the Kings Hall, and immediately fell in love with her art.


Rachel McBride Visual Artist - 'Brush it Off'
‘Brush it Off’



Fast forward to November 2018, and I’m visiting Rachel’s newest exhibition in Newtownards entitled ‘At a Loss for Words’.


Rachel McBride Visual Artist - 'Moments of Clarity'
‘Moments of Clarity’



Oh my! Once again she took my breath away.  Rachel has an unbridled (and in my opinion unrivaled) talent for expressing depth of emotion through colour and texture.


Rachel McBride Visual Artist - 'A Picture says 100 Words'
‘A Picture says 100 Words’


5 years ago Rachel lost her speech for a short period of time and wrote these words:

“If someone cannot communicate and interact with others are they just ‘a being’ and at what point do they become invisible or unknown to society? A frightening and disturbing thought which ultimately forced me to consider my world without the ability to speak.”


Rachel McBride Visual Artist (Butterfly Kisses)
‘Butterfly Kisses’


Rachel was born with Cerebral Palsy and has had to overcome many hurdles in her life.

Every time I speak with her I’m overwhelmed by her positivity, strength and beauty.


Rachel McBride Visual Artist - 'Childhood'


Her pet hate is being seen as an inspiration, but it’s always the first adjective that comes to my mind when I read the extracts about each of her pieces, admiring the incredible vulnerability and vigor within each piece and knowing the limitations of her body which she fights against to live a fulfilling and boundless life.


Rachel McBride Visual Artist - 'Absolutely Floored'
‘Absolutely Floored’


I can whole-heartedly recommend you to Rachel’s (free) exhibition, which continues at Ards Arts Centre, Newtownards until the end of this month. And you can sometimes bump into her in the gorgeous coffee shop she owns with her husband called Haptik (the food is ‘out of this world’ awesome!).


And you can read a great write-up about her in the Irish Times here.


What amazingly creative talent we have here on our wee island!

Let’s keep celebrating our local, inspiring women!



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JJD Newsletter & GDPR

By Judith on June 5, 2018
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I’m sure you are more than familiar now with the changes to our General Data Protection Rules here in the UK and EU.



For small business holders like me, it’s been a time consuming and expensive exercise in trying to figure out a way through the ‘grey areas’ to make sure we are complying with the new rules.


So in keeping with the new rules, I have published a new privacy policy about how I collect, use and retain your data. You can read the policy here.  If you have any queries or concerns about this, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.



I have just sent out my summer newsletter, which covers the latest information on upcoming classes, new pattern releases and free tutorials.


If you would like to receive my termly newsletter in future and get regular updates and subscriber discounts, then just type in your email address on the right hand side of this page.


Happy reading!


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Mental Health Awareness Week

By Judith on May 18, 2018
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Mental Health Awareness Week is 14th – 20th May here in the UK (photos explained at the end of the post!).



Did you know that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue and 5% of the world’s population currently suffer from depression? That’s 350 million people!


I’m sure, like me, you have either experienced some form of mental illness in your life, or know someone you care about who has.



During a particularly low point in my life, I started seeing a counsellor, who recognised that after seeing to my husband, my children, my home etc. I did nothing for myself.  She introduced me to the notion of ‘play’ and asked me to name one thing that I used to enjoy doing when I was younger.  I said sewing!



She encouraged me to reclaim this activity that gave me so much fulfillment and joy, and so I enrolled in my local college to study in City & Guilds Textile & Design.


I can honestly say that getting back into a creative environment and learning how to ‘play’ again, was instrumental in my recovery from depression.



That was 12 years ago, and little did I know then, that I would be teaching others how to release their creativity and learn how to ‘play’ and enjoy life again.



My first experience of teaching patchwork and quilting was to a group of women with various mental health needs (depression, self-harm, addiction, domestic violence, grief, bi-polar disorder, cancer survivors, eating disorders to name but a few).  For 2 years I  saw first-hand the therapeutic benefits they experienced after only a few short weeks of sewing.  One lady in particular, old before her time, stooped with low self worth and heavily reliant on a walking stick, made her first patchwork cushion and within 6 weeks was coming to class without her stick and walking tall!!  Like many others, learning a new skill within a caring community, and having something to show and be proud of, elevated her self-esteem and ignited hope and positivity in many areas of her life.



Seeing the wonderful benefits sewing was having on these ladies’ lives ignited a passion in me to encourage others to let go of negativity, worry, anxiety & perfectionism, even if only for a few hours a week, and discover the healing and therapeutic powers of sewing.



It’s encouraging now to see emerging evidence from neuroscientists and doctors that support what we sewists already know – that sewing (& crafting) is good for our brains and mental health!


The authors of the ‘Sew Your Blues Away’ blog have written an informative article about this here.  They say:


“In short, mentally engaging movement (sewing) helps to break the cycle of negative thoughts, as well as allowing the brain to recover and improve by generating newer, healthier brain cells.  Specialists state that an engaging hobby is often more effective than just taking an antidepressant, which typically targets only one neurotransmitter.  While sewing not only heals, it also improves the brain’s resistance to future bouts of depression by reminding our brains that we have an impact on the world around us.” 


So not only is sewing mentally good for us, it is helping our brains physically too! How cool is that!



This article from 2014 explains not only why crafting like knitting and sewing are good for our brains, but why crafting with others is so important too.  Check it out!


And I’m sure the ladies who come to my classes will testify to many of these benefits (& more!) too! We certainly have a lot of fun together!



Now my work as a sewing tutor is my passion, my calling and it has gotten me through some of the toughest periods of my life. I’m so privileged to get to ‘play’ everyday as my day job.  But of course, turning a hobby into a business means I needed to find a new hobby!



At the moment I’m learning about photography, and I enjoy getting out into nature and noticing details that I would otherwise miss had I not brought my camera along. In the busyness of this modern world I’m trying to literally ‘stop and smell the roses’!  (I hope you have enjoyed the pics I’ve shared here.)




So as we focus on Mental Health this week and bring this once taboo subject into the open, let me encourage you to find something that returns to you the same enjoyment, fulfillment and escapism that playtime once did. Let yourself be absorbed by creativity and fun, and released from the stresses and demands of life!



Happy sewing!



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Tilda Circus Blog Hop

By Judith on April 9, 2017
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I recently got the opportunity to sign up to a Tilda Blog Hop, hosted by Nadine at Sew and So, celebrating the launch of their new collection, Circus.



This is my first blog hop (squeeee!) and I feel privileged to be joining 5 other talented, Tilda loving, sewers.


I love all the Tilda collections released so far, and this one is no exception.  Here are the fat quarters I received, to turn into something wonderful for the blog hop.



And here is the blog hop schedule:


Saturday 8th April – SewandSo

Sunday 9th April – Bakes, Books & My Boys

Monday 10th April – Littlest Sweet Shop

Tuesday 11th April – The Yorkshire Sewist

Wednesday 12th April – Starting Stitch

Thursday 13th April – Just Sew Sue

Friday 14th April – Just Jude Designs


Yes that’s me on 14th April!  Come back then to see what I made!



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Buying Fabric from outside UK

By Judith on February 21, 2017
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If you aren’t a regular at buying fabric from non-UK online fabric stores, you may get a shock when you place an order, and then take delivery of a grey Customs Card from the Royal Mail, instead of your much anticipated bundle of fabric goodness!



And to add insult to injury, not only have you been hit with a customs charge, but another £8 Royal Mail handling charge on top!


That great deal you thought you got on your fabric doesn’t taste so sweet all of a sudden!


I’ve purchased fabric from America approx. 10 times and I’ve never incurred a customs charge.  But I’ve been lucky.  Your expectation should be that a charge will be incurred, and here’s why:


Anything that is ‘imported’ into the UK is subject to Border Force checks, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).


Those checks may result in the following charges being applied:


Customs charge (based on the value of the item, where the value is over £135)

VAT (a consumption tax applied to EU countries)

Excise tax (a tax applied to purchases of alcohol or tobacco)

Some products are ‘duty free’ but fabric isn’t one of them!



There is excellent information on both the Royal Mail and HMRC websites but here are the rules in a nutshell:


Buying fabric from inside the EU: no charges


Buying fabric from outside the EU:

If the total value* of your package is less than £15, there are no charges.


If the total value* of your package is between £15 – £135, there will be Import VAT to pay. This is calculated as a percentage of the total value of your package.


If the total value* of your package is over £135: Import VAT and Customs Duty is charged


*this includes cost of the items, shipping and any insurance costs.


For example, if you purchased 5m of fabric from America totalling $40 ($8 per metre) and the shipping costs you $25, Customs calculate the total value of the package as £51.89 and the import VAT as £10.35. Royal Mail will then apply a handling fee of £8 on top of this, bringing the total cost of your fabric parcel to £70.24. This makes my fabric cost just over £14 per metre, which is an average price in a UK store.


So while you might think you are bagging an $8 per metre bargain, unless it is a design or collection you can’t get in the UK, it might be worth trying to purchase it locally.


If you want to find out how much customs duty you might pay, before making your purchase, use this nifty calculator.



All the above information is based on non-gift purchases.  The ‘no charge’ threshold for gifts are higher,  but there are clear and definite boundaries on what can be considered a gift. If you are making a private purchase from a fabric store, this is not considered a gift.


There are a few non-EU countries who have an ‘Import VAT Pre-paid’ arrangement with HMRC, which means you won’t incur any additional charges on delivery of your package. These countries are Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and The Channel Islands.


I hope this article has better informed you about purchasing fabric from other countries.  It is not my desire to put you off purchasing from abroad in any way. However, with adjusted expectations and informed choices, you can still enjoy your purchases without those nasty shocks!


I would love to hear about your ‘purchasing experiences’. Drop me a comment below!



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Finish-A-Long 2017 Quarter 1

By Judith on January 8, 2017
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2017…are you ready for a new year? A new year – a new list!

As you are probably aware, the 2017 FAL is remaining global – a community of bloggers across the world, jointly hosting the FAL. Our hosts are:

  • Sarah – Sew me – Northern Ireland

For those of you who are new to the FAL, it is a place to find motivation and encouragement to complete those unfinished projects that are hanging about becoming UFOs. Every quarter you post a list of projects you hope to finish in the next three months, and then at the end of the quarter, you post a link from your blog, Flickr or Instagram of each successful finish from your original list.

Each finish is an entry for wonderful prizes from our sponsors.

There is no penalty for not finishing a listed project, so feel free to make your list long or short, as you wish.

The 2017 Schedule and Rules for the FAL are on my permanent FAL page, let me know if you have any questions.

Here are the fantastic and generous sponsors for Q1 of the FAL – you can see each of their prizes listed under their logo (think about visiting them and saying thank you):


As you may recall from last year, there was a return of tutorial week at the end of each quarter, between the opening of the link for finishes and the day that link closes. Are you enjoying this? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below! This will take place each quarter. Each host works hard to put these together so I hope you are visiting their blogs to encourage them.
If you have a tutorial that you would like to share, please let me or another host know.

It’s time to round up those projects you want to finish over the next three months, take a photo of each one and make your list. In order for your projects to be eligible, they must at least be a tangible project at the start of the quarter.  That means, at the very least, a fabric pull matched to a pattern, a quilt top needing to be quilted, or a half knit jumper. I love seeing your bee blocks, but they won’t count unless you happen to be turning them all into a fully completed quilt!

It is very helpful if you tag your list as #2017FALQ1yourname when posting on social media: Flickr, Facebook & Instagram. Using the same hashtag over the quarter when sharing progress or finishes before the link, helps the hosts find your original list quickly – especially when this is done over a 3 month period. IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to link your finishes up when the quarter closes.


The 2017 Q1 link for your list of proposed finishes is now open below on my blog and on each of the hosting blogs. You need only link your list once, on one blog – and that link will show up on all of the blogs.

If you are using Facebook, Flickr or Instagram, link a mosaic and put your list in the description. Katy of The Littlest Thistle has a great tutorial on how to link-up if you need it.

We also ask that you become part of the FAL community. Please check out the links of others – visit and comment on their lists. We all need encouragement to get those finishes done, so please share some of your own too.

When creating your list there is one thing to remember….No deductions for not completing something so ….. Aim High! Nothing to lose!!!
Well Now….. Get those lists together and get linked up.

The Q1 linky party will stay open until 11 pm EST, January 14, 2017- as we are global, you might want to check your time zone to determine your last possible time to link. Remember: you only need to link up on ONE hosting blog and it will automatically show up on all hosting blogs.


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Feedback Survey Results

By Judith on January 4, 2017
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As part of my 6 year blogiversary giveaway in December, I asked you to complete a simple survey about what your struggles are in quilting and what you would most like available to help.



The first 2 questions were

What are your biggest struggles when it comes to Patchwork and Quilting?




What are your biggest struggles when following/using patterns?


But we’ll get to those in a minute!


Let’s jump first to the graded questions, where you gave a value of 0-5 for each answer (0 = not interested 5 = very interested). You can get a refresher on the 7 questions here.

[visualizer id=”46935″]


You can see from the pie chart that the highest scoring question was “Patterns with lots of photos and well explained steps”!


Your frustrations with poorly worded and illustrated patterns came through loud and clear, and you further backed this up with your ‘suggestions’ comments.


As a pattern writer this is a topic close to my heart, not only through my own struggles in following patterns, but also as a Quilting tutor, seeing first hand how much even experienced learners can feel defeated by a pattern.


But you can see through the close percentages that ‘up there’ among your top interests are informative and topical articles and discussions (16.9%) and a ‘Sewing Surgery’ where you can ask questions and engage with a community of like minded sewists (15.7%).


On the latter, you are most welcome to join my ‘Sewing Surgery’ Facebook group.  



Here we can ask for help, talk about swaps, sales, events, ‘show and tell’ and more!  And a growing membership means a wider community with a wealth of shared knowledge, experience and inspiration to draw from.


I know how important ‘community’ is to creatives. It’s affirming, healing and uplifting when we can share a little of ourselves and connect through what we make. But if you aren’t on Facebook, please feel free to leave me a comment, use my contact form, or chat to me on Instagram.


Now back to the first set of questions.  Your answers were wide and varied, and in addition to ‘any other comments’ I’ve grouped your feedback into 5 main categories: Patterns, Fabrics, Cutting, Techniques, Personal.

[visualizer id=”46947″]

As I mentioned previously, your concerns around using ‘Patterns’ was the front runner. From ‘patterns making assumptions’ to ‘not understanding jargon/abbreviations’. But once again, the complaint that surfaced more than any others was ‘insufficient pictures and diagrams’.


‘Techniques’ covered issues such as accurate seams & matching points, fixing common errors, basting, sewing curves, maths, scaling patterns up and down, machine quilting and free motion quilting, paper piecing & inserting zips.


In the ‘Fabrics’ category, the most common struggle was putting fabrics and colours together for projects.


Under ‘Personal’ I included feedback about your lack of time to sew, self doubt and lack of confidence, narrowing down ideas, working in a small space & fear of your sewing machine!


Last but not least, we have the ‘Cutting’ department – how to cut accurately, how to gain the best yield from the fabric, squaring half square triangles and corners, cutting angles, making accurate templates among others!


Thank you so much for taking the time to give me your informative and honest feedback.  I will be using these results to shape what I deliver through my website and how best to serve you.

(And if you would like to have your say, complete the quick survey here).


One thing I know in reading your responses, is that you aren’t alone in your struggles. We all have struggles in one area or another, even experienced sewists! So let’s try and help each other make this year a positive creative experience!

Keeping sewing!


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