Monday, 4 August 2014

The family that quilts together

The last few weeks have seen a lot of quilty activity in this house. Eleanor, after little interest for the past 18 months, suddenly rediscovered an interest and finished the top of her quilt in a burst, decided to add borders, and pieced a back (from a selection of mostly piggy prints) and is about to start quilting it with me:

James, after an extended break after the rush to finish his quilt for publication, finally got around to adding the borders to his latest creation, which we now need to sandwich and quilt:

He then picked this vibrant combination at Riverlea Quilts on Friday:

We just popped in for a few things - it was way past time to replace my original 24 x 6.5in ruler amongst other things, and I let them both browse. He immediately lit upon the floral (it's for a gift) and I helped him find the butterflies to coordinate.

Meanwhile, I've started piecing with this selection of black and whites. I don't have a deadline on this one yet, and it was fun to get back to some piecing. It's a design I've had waiting for a while, and I'm looking forward to seeing it come together.


Splash! is my most recently published quilt, which you can find in Australian Patchwork and Quilting Vol 23 No 11.

It is an is an updated version of a swap quilt called Snowdance (below), which I made several years ago.

I've been asked many times about a pattern for Snowdance, and Splash! is the answer. Of course, when you use a pattern, you can change it up how you like, so you might choose to use the brighter colours of the original, or to leave it smaller by not adding the narrow flange and extra border of my new version!

But I love the extra space, which allowed me to add some extra plumes into the quilting, both inside and outside the appliqued wreath.

And the feathered quilting in the border really adds something while staying subtle and keeping the emphasis on the applique.

I enjoyed quilting these small feathers, and found it easiest to mark a perimeter line so I didn't risk quilting beyond where the binding would be sewn on and chopping off the tips of the plumes. Some are mighty close, but they're all there!

The background is McTavishing again. It's interesting to compare how differently I quilt the same style with a several more years of experience!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Snowflake stash

I've always loved snowflakes (actually, to be technically correct, the pretty things are snow crystals) and have quite a substantial stash of snowflake fabrics. That's despite the fact that I instantly reject any prints which portray them with 8 'branches'! But I have a hard time cutting into them. Anyway this week I delved into them for an applique project made entirely of snowflake fabrics - from the background, to the applique pieces, to the binding, and yes, even the backing!

Here's just a little peek. It's packaged-up now and off to Australian Patchwork and Quilting; you'll see it as a project in a few months' time.

I think I need a piecing project soon, but next up is helping James and Eleanor work on their quilts while they're on holidays.


A few weeks ago I finished the commissioned beach scene I was working on and sent it off. I'd meant to blog the photos, but life keeps getting busy. I've been knitting and quilting, and have been sniffling my way through the first half of the 2-week winter school holidays with James and Eleanor

In reference to both the boats on the water and the hot-air balloons in the sky, this one is called 'Floating'.

Every beach scene I make is different, although as I make more of them, there is less structural difference between some of them, and the variations come in the form of fabric selections and details. Some of these are specific requests, others more serendipitous or aesthetic. In this case, my customer hadn't specifically commented on including a kite in the sky as I've done recently, so I decided to use the new balloon fabric I had (and was keen to use!) instead. Not knowing whether it was for a child or not, I felt this was a better choice (although after fusing I realised I'd placed them a bit too centrally - normally I'd place them a bit more off-centre, but by then it was too late!).

The turtles below were a specific request. I've only used them once before, as they're hard to blend in. This time I helped with that by adding an extra appliqued turtle over the seamline - and the fun appliqued crab near the bird.

The palm trees were also a request. They're fused applique, as are the other applique details. I used batik fabrics and chose to use a palm print for that section of sky as well, which I think added some nice depth. (It just so happened that I had the right print which fitted perfectly into the gradient I was creating for the sky, in just the right place.)

This detail image below shows the applique stitches. The other appliques are stitched on with fine clear or matching threads in a small blanket stitch, but I chose to applique these with a free-motion line close to the edge at the quilting stage using a 40wt glossy thread. And then I went over the trunks to create the texture I wanted. I drew the leaves freehand and then adapted them as I cut them out.

This quilt has now safely arrived in the US, and I've spent the week working with some of my beloved (and more seasonally appropriate) snowflake stash.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


The other afternoon while I was trimming my latest magazine project prior to binding, the afternoon sun shone through my studio windows and highlighted the quilting texture beautifully:

Unfortunately it didn't also highlight the two small sections I'd somehow missed, and which I didn't discover until I'd pinned it up to photograph. By that stage I didn't have time for mucking around, so I added the little bits of quilting after the photos!

I've posted both this one and the beach quilt. Photos of the beach quilt are coming once I've edited them to get the colours accurate - but I spent this evening knitting instead. I've started a jumper for James. I'm using a pattern, something I never do with quilting - except I'm altering the size, and the cable design (I'm thrilled I can knit cables, such lovely quilting-like texture they create!), and using different yarn, and making it striped....

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Paris quilted

Kayscha certainly challenged me this time, with an 86 x 110in quilt for her daughter's bed!

Although I am very happy with my Bernina 820, I do think there are some aspects of quilting, especially of very large quilts, which long-arm machines on frames are much better equipped to handle.

I got the outer borders out of the way first this time, with the 3/4 circle feathers I described over a few posts while I was quilting them.

Next I quilted the feathered circles and added the details to the centres. The central Arc de Triomphe is shown above.

Around the Arc are eight Eiffel Towers. After much deliberation, I chose to quilt clouds in the space around the towers. It was too big to leave unquilted, and most of the other options detracted from the feature motif, including one version which looked ok until I quilted it and got promptly unpicked - it made them look like power transmission lines! The clouds work nicely with the grey background. Each of the eight has different clouds.

Although it doesn't show in photos, the towers are quilted in heavier, glossy white thread which give plenty of definition, and the clouds are quilted in a fine grey, which blends into the fabric, leaving just the texture.

The remaining feathered wreaths have a simple fleur de lis in the centre.

I then filled all the rest of the centre with a flexible swirly design which is quite good at easing in fullness where necessary. That just left the pin border, which I knew would need reasonably dense quilting to get it to lie flat. I started by scalloping the edges, which is a great way to quilt seams which are determined not to lie quite straight or flat. I then marked hearts at intervals along the border (starting with a few smaller ones at the top) and pebbled the border, leaving the hearts unquilted for a bit of texture. These tie in nicely with the hearts in the feature print.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Quilting up a storm

Last night I got busy and took some photos, them sandwiched the quilt and appliqued/quilted the palm trees and quilted all the sky before I finally crawled into bed. It had been raining most of the night, and then the thunder started with an enormous crash that I thought would wake James and Eleanor.

It's stormy again tonight, so I've decided to turn the machine off and have an early night rather than risk running it.

These photos are all prior to quilting. I love the way the palm tree print sits behind the appliqued palm trees.

One of the fish in the photo above is appliqued - can you tell which? The flash blew out the colours quite badly and I corrected them in Photoshop as much as possible, but this section still doesn't look quite right. I always find the water hardest to colour-match, and it's worse when I have to use flash.

I hope to get loads of quilting done tomorrow, and might finally get around to editing and sharing photos of the Paris quilt, too. Tuesdays are terrific!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Paris and palms

The big Paris quilt is all done and I'll share photos tomorrow. For the last few evenings I've been madly piecing the beach scene, and tonight I've been appliqueing. The top itself is basically done, except the water is not yet joined to the sand and sky - while I'm appliqueing pieces to both, it's easiest to keep the background piece as small as possible. I added what I could to the beach (most of the applique details are on the beach, though there is a pair of hot air balloons in the sky, and an extra boat and fish in the water section) before joining it to the sky. But now I'm working on making a few palm trees which will overlap both, so I had to join them.

All the fusible web for the palm trunks and fronds I managed to cut from my bag of scrap pieces, which is always satisfying (and why they look to be such odd shapes!). They're all fused to the green and brown fabrics now, and I'm cutting the fiddly leaf shapes. I'll position and sew them on when I'm fresh in the morning.

Then, once the water is sewn to the sand I have a few more appliques to put on - they're too close to the shoreline to risk putting on first.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


Sitting central among the eight Eiffel Towers on this quilt, and the 13 fleurs de lis, is a single Arc de Triomphe.

I found a sharp, straight-on image, then edited it to remove colour and further define the lines, printed it at the size I needed to fit into the feather wreath, then traced the lines I wanted to quilt. Then I traced it onto the quilt top. I chose to represent the main sculptures at the front with some feathers.

I think it's rather fitting that the arch in the middle of the enormous, busy Parisian roundabout is also in the middle of this enormous Paris-themed quilt.

This quilt is all but complete now, and I'm about to move back to the beach scene.

Friday, 13 June 2014


Having replaced the errant too-dark piece in the beach scene layout, I'm letting the whole thing sit on the design board for a few days to consider it thoroughly, and in the meantime returning to feathered circles. I only have 2 more to do now, then I'll move on the the background and remaining border before I finally fill in the circles around the motifs.

These Eiffel Towers have been both fun and fiddly to quilt. I actually wrote this last night, but it somehow remained as a draft. The feathered wreaths are now all done and I'm working my way through the background.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

On the design board

It's times like these I wonder how I ever coped for so long without a design board. It's far from ideal, yet still invaluable.
I've been continuing to build up this beach scene today.

I thought I'd  share a sequence as I remembered to take photos at various stages.

The main advantage of the design board is being able to position all the sections easily. But an important secondary benefit is the chance to see how all the pieces interact from a distance. This is best done with photos; anomalies show up better on 'film'.

Once all the pieces are laid out, I find it best to let them sit for a day or so, frequently looking at both the actual design board and the photos. I can already see one piece which will have to be replaced. You can probably pick it, too. It's a red and white fish on a dark water background near the centre. I did try to blend the water with the surrounding pieces, but in reality it's just too dark to be that high in the water. I really wanted that specific fish, but it's so fiddly, it's just not practical to cut it out and applique it, so I'll find another.

Once I finished the water, I selected the fabrics to create the graduated sunset sky. My customer has requested palm trees, and while I will also add some appliqued ones to the beach, I thought the palm print would be a fun addition to the sky. Again, I'll let them sit there for a little while to be sure they're right before cutting the pieces I need.

It's fun seeing the quilt come together without having sewn a single stitch yet

Thursday, 5 June 2014


To try and manage my headaches, I've been working on 2 quilts simultaneously; the quilting job which isn't great on my neck and shoulders, and a new beach scene. Interspersed with the quilting, I've been drafting the design and preparing the foundations. But now that quilt's at the fabric selection stage... well, it's taking centre stage and not leaving room for much else!

This evening I worked right across the bottom of the quilt, building the reef base. This is the slowest part of the fabric selection, because there are so many colours and elements to blend together. Tomorrow evening should see the water level rise to the beach, and then I have what is effectively a 5-day weekend to bring the quilt to life.

Once the fabrics are selected, sewing them to the foundations is a relatively quick job. It's also a very rewarding one, as I see the careful positioning and cutting pay off.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Fitting in feathers

Yesterday I mentioned my method of fitting in the last few feathers in my feathered wreath, given they're all quilted free-hand. So here's a bit of a photographic tutorial:

Here the inner circle is quilted, and I'm about to start the feathers. You can just see the outer circle, but the marks are fading.
Now I've quilted the first few feathers. Note that they're not marked in any way. They're not going to be identical, but the overall effect is one of consistency.

Now I'm approaching the start of the feathers again; there's space for about 5 more plumes, so it's time to stop and get out the marker.

I roughly mark the size of the tips of the feathers, starting from the beginning and working back  towards the feather I've just quilted. These marks are for size only, and I have no intention of actually quilting along them.

You can see here that I've got back up the the last quilted feather, and conveniently for the purposes of this tutorial, there's only room for about half a plume left.

To 'fix' this, my plan is to adjust the size of my plumes a little smaller so they slowly get closer to matching the positioning of the marks. The difference in size won't be noticeable once the wreath is finished.

My first plume is goes almost halfway across the marking.

The second plume is a similar size,but only goes perhaps a third into the next marking.

By the time I get back to the first feather, they almost match the markings (which I remarked for this photo so they're more visible).

Unfortunately this doesn't show my neatest feather shapes, but you can kind of see that I've ended up with the feathers all of a similar size, instead of finishing with one huge or tiny plume which looks out of place. Viewed as a whole, the feathered wreath looks consistent.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

More crockery and feathers

Today I started quilting the feathered wreaths in the open blocks of this quilt. Once again, I dug through my crockery cupboards for plates the right size - one to just fit inside the central grey square and one to fit just inside the outer white square. then it was just a case of centring the plates, drawing around them with the air-erasable marker, and quilting.

I start by quilting along the inside circle, then quilt the feathers out from that, just touching the outer circle. When I get maybe 5 or 6 feathers from the beginning, I roughly draw in just the outer bumps of the last few feathers, going back from the start point towards where I'm up to. This allows me to judge whether I need to fractionally stretch or squash these few feathers so they meet nicely, without the last one being an ugly huge or tiny one. I'll try and remember to take some photos of that stage tomorrow, as there are plenty more wreaths to go.

Later I'll go back and add some fill around the fleur de lis. I'll use a fine grey BottomLine thread, but haven't decided just how I'll do it yet.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Plate feathers tutorial

The feathered border is finished, now here's a bit of a tutorial on how I did the feathers. This method will work for borders from around 8in wide, up to 12in. I used it previously on two borders combined.

You'll need a circular template which is about half the width of the border, perhaps a little more, and an erasable marker. I use a Sewline air-erasable marker, as it goes on really easily, is nice and visible, and I trust it to come out. For round templates, I search through my crockery cupboards for a bowl or plate which is the right size!

Then it's just a case of tracing 3/4 around the template. It's a bit hard to see in the photo of the fabric above, so I moved to a pencil and paper diagram:

Start at the end of the quilting area, shown at the top. The 3/4 circles always start in the middle of the border, and alternate directions. I like to place a small cross at roughly the centre of each circle. This helps me judge better when filling the circle with feathers. There's no need to quilt the spines first.

Start quilting where you started drawing. Quilt feather plumes around the outside of the first circle, and follow along the spine as it turns into the inside of the second circle. Fill the circle.

Backtrack along the spine to where the second circle meets the third, and quilt a teardrop shape between them.

Then work back up from the teardrop. This step plus the teardrop above form part A of the repeating pattern once you get going.

Bactrack along the spine again, this time all the way to where the first circle meets the second, and quilt another teardrop shape between them.

Then work up from the teardrop, feathering up to the starting edge.

Backtrack to the teardrop and quilt feathers around the outside of the second circle and into the third circle. Combined with the teardrop, this forms part B of the repeating pattern.

At this point I went back to the earliest point which needed feathers adding, so I could mark some more circles without having to move my quilt from the machine. Because I use the air-erasable pen, I can only mark 3-5 circles at a time, so they don't vanish before I get to them!

Continue along the borders, alternating A and B.

When you get to a corner, be sure to place the corner 3/4 circle centrally in the corner.

You may find that the circle doesn't fit neatly into the length of the border. The simplest way to check is to measure across the circle (its diameter). Add 1/8in to this to allow for a gap when you trace. Then mark this interval all along the very edge of the border. If you get to the end and it perfectly meets the centred corner circle, then all's well. If there's a gap or overlap, the easiest thing is to squash or stretch each circle (or just a few if needed) a little bit as you trace. My bowl was 5in across, so I marked out 5 1/8in increments along the edge of the quilt, right at the very edge of the fabric. In a few places I stretched my 'circle' out by as much as 1/4in, and it's not noticeable. Another option is to allow a gap between the circles at the corners and to draw in a smooth connecting line. Does that make any sense at all?