I finally made a decision to get a new sewing machine (thank you Jennie for all your advice) - I love him - he is called Bernie (for Bernina) and so far he is behaving himself very well and being very polite ... although it seems that producing straight lines is down to the skill of the user and can not be blamed on the machine.
So all enthused I went to a machine quilting course on Sunday at the City Quilter (which was really a bit slow for me and I think in future I'll be looking for intensive 1:1's with Jennie instead) ...... and armed with a knowledge of the walking foot and darning foot .... and trying not to be too nervous that I can't even do a straight line or a small curve ......I decided to find a little project that would help me practice ...... and I found "the oven mitt" in Denyse Schmidt Quilts: 30 Colorful Quilt and Patchwork Projects .... a project that apparently everyone in the world has made! ... just google oven mitt!
Anyway .... having got over the fact that I am not unique or inventive ... I made my first oven mitts .... I can't do straight lines ....... but they look quite sweet from a distance (I think photography might be everything - although flickr does insist on cropping everything off into a square).
I then tried some pretty flowers (programmed decorative stitch on Bernie).... some free hand swiggles .... and some more straight lines .... the mitts have certainly helped me get more comfortable with Bernie ... but now I have 6 half baked (ha ha) oven mitts ...... so beware if it is your birthday soon!!