Vintage Bird Blocks Flying Home

For the last 20 years I have been in the possession of 50 vintage blocks. I don’t know too much about their origin. The images on these linen blocks are the state birds of the USA. The name of each bird is on the block and the name of the state it represents is written in script within a scroll. The blocks were painted by my husband’s grandmother with ‘liquid embroidery’; also known as ‘ball point paint’.

These blocks were handed to me in a cloth bag as my dear mother-in-law just didn’t know what to do with them. With a future visit planned I decided to sew them together into a quilt that can be enjoyed by several generations instead of languishing in my cupboard.

State Birds of America

I know the blocks were done sometime in the 1960’s in the state of Kansas on a small farm in the limited spare time she had as a farmer’s wife.

I set the 50 blocks into columns of 10 birds separated by a brown, paisley fabric,

and have used a Sunflower print for the binding as sunflowers are the state flower of Kansas.

Detail of the State Birds

I used an ‘all over’ quilting design (I think it looks like clouds) as I didn’t want the quilting design to detract from the birds. The Aurifil thread is always a pleasure to use and the colour works well on the bird blocks and the ‘tree’ brown sashing.

Kansas Sunflower Binding and Aurifil Thread

I’ll be giving this finished quilt back to my mother-in-law.  Then she can treasure the result of many hours of pleasure her mother must have experienced delicately painting the fine lines of each bird.

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Tuesday Treats: Marg Low Designs

This week I thought I would share the lovely work of an Australian designer, Marg Low.

You may have already met Marg at one of the Quilt & Craft shows held around Australia

Marg discovered Aurifil thread late last year, and has been using Cotton Mako’ 12 in her designs and kits ever since.

The Christmas banner below was embroidered with Cotton Mako’ 12, colour 2260 (Red)

You may have guessed that Marg loves to work with red and white

This year we have been pleased to be able to assist Marg with her business by packing spools of  Cotton Mako’ 12 thread, into colour sets that she has chosen to match her embroidery designs.

The Country Garden pattern and thread set. Click on the photo to go to Marg Low's online store

The Country Garden pattern and thread set. Click on the photo to go to Marg Low’s online store

click here  to read Marg’s Blog or on the photo above to go to her store.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to see Marg’s designs at an event, you will find her patterns, and the thread packs, for sale on the Marg Low online store.

What a perfect excuse to start those small Chris Kringle gifts for your textile loving friends!

1100 sand dunes and still counting

I’ve just returned from one of our “escape from the madding crowd” holidays.

The Simpson Desert is in the north eastern corner of South Australia and into Queensland & the Northern Territory

This time we ticked off one of the wishes on my husband’s bucket list.

Over the years we have travelled the Birdsville & Oodnadatta tracks many times but we had never made the connection between the two by crossing the Simpson desert.

The iconic Australian 4WD track crosses the Simpson Desert from Birdsville to Dalhousie Springs

So this year we took a 17 day break from work to head “bush”  to drive across the Simpson Desert, one of the iconic Australian 4WD tracks.

The first of 10 nights sleeping on the ground in a tent

We drove from Melbourne to started our camping trip in Birdsville.

We camped alongside the Birdsville billabong where you are sometimes lucky to find plenty of water, and bird life.

As there isn’t a town, or petrol station, between Birdsville in the east and Mt Dare,  514 km to the west,  this trip required us to be self-sufficient with water, food and fuel for at least 5 days.

Not only the fridge & kitchen sink but 80 litres of water, 210 litres of petrol and enough food for 10+ days

I had been a little apprehensive about the isolation of the trip but, from past experience, I knew that if something went wrong there would always be another traveller coming by within a day.

One sand dune crossed, 1099 to go!

Little did I realise how true this would be! I think we passed, and spoke to, more people on the road in the four days, crossing the Simpson Desert, than we have met on any of our other bush camping, escape work trips.

Sand dunes as far as the eye can see

The difference on this trip was the knowledge that there isn’t any internet access in the area, and no telephone service for emergencies unless you had hired a satellite phone from Birdsville, or Mt Dare.

Fortunately we didn’t need to use our “Sat” phone, but we did meet a group who had had to use their’s to call for medical help when one of their party broke a leg 160 km, or more, out of Birdsville.

The poached egg daisies were prolific on top of all the dunes

Once I realised how “busy” the road was going to be I couldn’t resist counting cars and motor bikes (and bird life):

  • Day One:  18 vehicles
  • Day Two:  27 cars & 6 motor bikes
  • Day Three:  5 cars,  (plus 2 Black Shouldered Kites & 5 Wedgetail Eagle sightings)
  • Day Four:  24 cars  (plus 1 wedgetail eagle & 2 Australian Bustards, “bush turkeys” )
  • Day Five:  Stopped counting as we were back on maintained roads, driving between Dalhousie Springs and Mt Dare.

Every day we saw budgerigars,  zebra finches, willy wagtails, blue wrens and a variety of other small birds, and large raptors, in numbers too great to count.

The early explorers were wrong when they thought that they would find an inland sea but there are plenty of salt lakes that catch water briefly

Apologies for this post not being truly textile related.

I didn’t take any sewing with me as I knew how dusty, and rough, the roads would be, and that the light would not be bright enough to stitch at night, but I think I have a collection of photos for landscape quilts that will keep me occupied for a long time.

I loved the reflected colours after the sun had set

Although the actual Simpson Desert crossing was the reason for the trip, it was only 4 days out of the 17 day holiday.

So don’t forget to pop back regularly to see future posts about the inspiration from the colours of inland Australia and women’s life in the outback.

Did I mention that I took 705 photos in the 17 day trip?

Tuesday Treats: Use up the stash, Brighten up the house

A freebie pattern for an attractive potholder to brighten up the kitchen.

You will feel virtuous when you use up fabric from your stash to make this:

Source: Hexi Potholder via Keefers Cabin on Craftsy

NOTE: you will have to create an account with Craftsy in order to download the pattern but the account is also FREE and gives you access to a wide variety of textile related articles.

Holiday Inspirations

I have recently returned from 2 weeks’ holiday in Cairns.  How lovely it was to sit on the beach and soak up some warmth (not too hot or too humid just yet) and forget about Melbourne’s grey, cold and miserable winter weather and all its attendant ailments.

Holidays are an opportunity to indulge in some handwork and a selection of projects always accompanies me to the locations we visit.  I think I am an unusual sight…. propped up on the sand or under a tree with my sewing or knitting, while most people are swimming, fishing or doing the  “tourist thing”.  Actually, I was knitting by the waterfront at Port Douglas when I was approached by a lady who wondered if I might also be a quilter and did I know of any quilting shops nearby!!

Holidays are also a wonderful source of inspiration, in lots of different ways. The things we see, both natural and man-made can inspire our creativity.  While in Cairns, we visited the Botanical gardens.  Here we joined a tour led by a volunteer, to learn more about some of the plants on display, as well as following some of the self-guided tours.  The tropical flora is amazing, both in its vivid colouration and lush growth, but also in its unusual forms and habits.

One form of Medinilla

This is such a dainty little flower in pastel tones.   But if you prefer stronger colours there is plenty to choose from.

Another Medinilla

Heleconias were everywhere in many different varieties.  It is not surprising to learn that these are related to cannas, bananas and gingers, all of which are  well-represented in the gardens.

One of many Heleconias on display.

One of my favourite flowers is the Pink Torch Ginger.  This has such an array of warm pink tones from the palest blush through to coral, and its form when fully open, reminds me of a Warratah.

This bud is not fully open.

When I returned to work, I actually had a little play with some Aurifil Threads to create a similar colour scheme.

Aurifil Ne 50 Pink Torch Ginger!!

And for something quirky….

Not sure what this tree is, but it is definitely not one for climbing!!

 These trees which were growing by the side of the road are commonly called Canonball trees, for obvious reasons.

Photo opportunity with a Canonball Tree.

Some of the flora is just plain sinister.  The Stinging Tree or Gympie Gympie is one such species.  If you look carefully,  you will see that each leaf is covered in hundreds of tiny hairs.  Each one delivers a sting which can cause excruciating pain which can last for months.   If you want a spinechilling thrill, google Gympie Gympie!

The dreaded Gympie Gympie

Some of the fauna can be sinister too.  Everywhere you go there are signs erected, alerting visitors to the danger of lurking crocodiles.  At one beach where we picnicked,  crocs had recently been sighted.  My husband is as keen on fishing as I am obsessive about quilting, and frequently tried to catch our dinner (and was successful on 2 occasions).  Fortunately he did not become a picnic lunch himself!!

Of course, no holiday is complete without a purchase of fabric to add to the stash.  This time I was extremely restrained and only bought one piece.  I will use it to make a bag using a pattern by Virginia Enright which I purchased  some years ago.   Since my return home I have purchased the felt and other fabric I need to make the bag, and collected my matching Aurifil threads (50 weight for piecing and 12 weight for embroidery), and put all my items in my patchwork pantry ready to begin.

The blue floral fabric was purchased in Cairns.

Now I just need a little more time to actually make my bag.  Another holiday would be good!

Other Always Quilting staff members are also holidaying over the next few weeks.  I wonder what holiday inspirations they’ll find?

Tuesday Treats: Try your hand at free motion quilting for the first time.

If you haven’t tried free motion quilting before, the thought can be vary daunting.

  • The idea of manipulating a large quilt under the sewing machine.
  • The thought  of possibly spoiling a carefully pieced quilt with those less than perfect “first time” stitches
  • Not knowing “what” to stitch

These are all thoughts that can block your creativity and prevent you from just getting out there and “doing it”

Free motion flowers with echo background fill

Well Cintia, of My Poppet, came up with a brilliant way to experiement with, and develop, those free motion quilting skill.

She uses pretty teatowels, instead of a quilt top, and stitches around the printed designs, to solve those creativity blockers:

  • You are working on a small A3 size piece of fabric so it is easy to manipulate under the machine
  • The “quilt top” is relatively inexpensive, you probably already have something suitable in the cupboard
  • You didn’t spend hours and hours piecing
  •  The quilting design is already on the fabric so you can start stitching without any lost time marking out quilting patterns.

See if you can find a pretty teatowel like this one, used by Cintia in her tutorial

So time to rummage through the cupboard to find a teatowel, and follow Cintia’s very clear tutorial to try your hand at free motion quilting.

Leave us a comment if you found this idea useful and don’t forget to call back next week to see what else we have found to share in our Tuesday Treats.

Or better still, use the subscribe button over to the left to subscribe to receive email updates from our blog.

Birthday Surprise

Someone at Always Quilting had a special birthday recently. We wanted to honour this grand event by making a surprise birthday present. (You see we weren’t supposed to know this birthday was happening!) So, much deliberation and soul searching and mental creativity occurred in the months leading up to a decision being made.

We decided to make a bag, big enough to carry a finished quilt  OR at least be used for storage of fabrics, threads, books, notions or patterns!

Secret meetings were arranged, colour choices worked out and fabrics selected and purchased.

The perfect thread with the perfect fabric

Each person was allocated a horizontal row to design and make. Firstly, the “braid” was sewn:

Beautiful braid of fabric

Then the fabrics were passed to another person who put together the 6″ row of squares.

Big Square blocks are sensational

Then the foundation pieced flowers for the top row were made.

Sweet flower blocks

It was quite exciting seeing the different rows being completed.

Finally the bag was put together with horizontal sashing, lining, handles and quilting- ALL with Aurifil thread of course!!

Completed Birthday Bag

The birthday girl was quite surprised when we gave her the present. We know she will get lots of use out of it!