Christmas Preparations NQR (not quilt related) – OR – It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

What would all these things have in common???

Mason Cash Mixing Bowl

Some of the smaller tins I use

Dried fruits and nuts

Around this time of the calendar year, some of us like to consider doing some Christmas baking – specifically Christmas cakes which take a while to ‘mature’. They are easy to bake and they can be made well in advance of December when life starts to get fairly hectic.
For me,  making the traditional Christmas fruit cake is important – it brings back childhood memories of stirring the cake mixture and making a ‘wish’ – usually for that toy you hoped that Father Christmas would bring you.  When the cake is in the oven,  my house  has a delicious smell of fruit cake cooking.  Often you have to bake when the temperature outside may quite summery (remember we live in the Southern Hemisphere where Christmas Day can often be very hot – like today’s temperature which reached 39 Deg C ).
I make my cake; using a recipe generously given to me by a special girlfriend,  in a bowl I have had all my married life. It is generally only used to make the Christmas cake in – although back in the days when I baked bread, I used it for that too.  I even have a special wooden spatula my father made me to mix all the dried fruit, eggs, butter, flours and spices together.

The finished cake – ready for icing

This year, I have made some smaller cakes to give away as Christmas gifts. I will probably roll out some white fondant ‘icing’ and decorate them simply with a holly leaf. Other years I have put an arrangement of cherries and almonds on the top so that there is no need for icing at all.

Some more cakes, stored in plastic wrap and ready for icing.

I wonder if anyone else has special baking they only do at Christmas?

Tuesday Treats: The Aurifil Designers Ornament Hop is nearly over!

This week is the last in the Aurifil Designers Ornament Blog Hop that I featured in an earlier Tuesday Treat.

If you have been meaning to download the patterns, and get in on the fun, but somehow haven’t yet done so, now is the time.

So get started collecting patterns and making ornaments.

Here are the 12 ornaments in the blog hop. The FREE patterns are available on each of the designers blogs

You will find the links to the designer’s blogs at Auribuzz

  • Visit one of the designers to download the free pattern
  • Browse on from there to the next designer
  • DON”T forget to leave a comment on EACH of the 12 designers blogs on their ornament day.
  • SIX lucky people who leave a comment on each designer’s blog on their day, will win a box of Aurifil thread

You can also share photos, on flickr, of the ornaments that you make using the patterns.

So check out the photos in the Flickr folder and add your photos as well.

Comments  will close on  all twelve blogs  on Dec 1

Good luck!

Done & Dusted!

Well the Australian Quilt Market is over for 2012.

It is amazing that something that can take 4 hours to set up can be pulled down, & packed up, in an hour.

This morning I walked around with the camera so that I could share some of the pretty displays with you.

The templates for the Sizzix system are very tempting.

If I had a business kitting up patterns with fabric, I would be very tempted by the Sizzix cutting system.

I loved the Australian Colour blenders and solids on the Leutenegger stand

Leutenegger had a pretty display of Australian “self print’ fabric colours that read as solids

I’ve quilted lots of quilts designed by Kookaburra Cottage Designs … they are usually available from quilt shops as “Block of the Month” programs, and are a big favourite with grandmas.

However, this lovely owl design hasn’t yet appeared on my quilting machine.

I loved the owl quilt, a design by Kookaburra Cottage Quilts.

There are always a lot fabric distributors at Quilt Market, and I am always envious that they can set up their displays using big panels of fabric, and a vase of flowers.

Whereas we spend hours stitching up samples to display the Aurifil thread range and unpack, and set up, lots of small items to dress our display.

The “Free Spirit” print range from Valori Wells caught my eye on the XLN stand

The last hour of the last day is usually fairly quiet, all the visitors have finished their shopping and the exhibitors are just waiting to pack up ….  except most of us visit with each other to chat and go shopping.

I enjoy catching up with friends at the Australian Quilt Market

I think I always leave with something that I hadn’t planned to buy when I left home in the morning but I am not going to tell you about my purchases today … you will just have to wait until things start arriving in the shop.

Although they are wholesale businesses, you can read more about their products:

Annie’s Designs

J. Leutenegger Pty Ltd

Kookaburra Cottage Quilts

XLN Fabrics


Glass Half Full – half way through the 2012 Australian Quilt Market

I guess I could have taken some photos of the AQM set up day yesterday, but to be honest we are usually so busy that the camera is the last thing on our mind.

Set up of our stand finally done.

Also, as Ladybirdee said’ “Why would we talk about ourselves in our half undressed state?”

This year we printed chair backs!

I always think that setting up a display stand is a bit like getting dressed to go to a formal function:  the fashion gurus always tell you that “less is best”, they recommend that you look in the mirror before you leave the house and take off one piece of bling.

We always try to have lots of examples of how Aurifil can be used for patchwork, quilting and embroidery, such as judysew4th’s bathing beauties hexagon quilt.

It doesn’t matter how often we set up a stand for a quilt event, we always start out with a plan and it is completely different by the time we have finished the set up.

This time we set up the display, based on our original plan, then went off for a cup of coffee.

We decorated the side wall with Ladybirdee’s glorious quilt

When we came back we were able to re-arrange things with “fresh eyes’.  In fact I think we tweaked & re-arranged several times but somethings, like our side wall above, were perfect the first time they were set up.

This year we started with a summer beachside theme, suggested by judysew4th and confirmed when we received Sheena Norquay’s beautiful Seascape kit Art boxes.

The Seascape kit art sets by Sheena Norquay. One set holds 12 spools x 1300 metres and the other 10 spools x 200 metres of Cotton Mako’ 50

Today, the first day, was very successful. Quilt Market is always a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, and to meet people who we may only know via telephone or email.

I quilted an ocean scene to use as a backdrop.

AQM is held over two days in Melbourne so,  today, half way through the event it truly is a half glass full with more fun still to be enjoyed.

Tuesday Treats: Not all hand stitched gifts have to be quilts.

We’ve been busy this week putting the final touches to our stand for the Australian Quilt Market, the wholesale trade event, held in Melbourne on 24 -25  November.

This year we thought that we would use a summer theme to decorate our stand so we have been madly stitching display pieces to fit the theme.

Our cushion with a seaside theme

At the same time as we were making the cushion I happened to read a blog by Ivory Spring about making cushions for gifts when you don’t have time to make an entire quilt . You must pop over to see her cushions in her  Virtual trunk show .

Anyhow, her article set me thinking about how quick and easy it really can be to make a cushion as a gift.

Simply find an appropriate fabric panel, or gorgeous print, and get started!

Choose a printed fabric panel, a gorgeous print or a novelty story print for the cushion front

We hand quilted around the birds, and frame on our panel, using Cotton Mako’ 12 to create some texture (well Ladybirdee did),  however you don’t even need to do this if you are in real hurry.

Ladybirdee used Cotton Mako’ 12 to outline quilt the birds and the frame around the panel to add texture to the cushion front

Then I used the “pillowcase/envelop” method to add a back to the panel to make the cushion cover.

I call this overlapped closure a “pillowcase/envelop” method.

To make the cushion back I used two pieces of fabric, each approximately 2/3rds the height of the front panel.

A deep hem, 2.5 cm (1″) creates a firm closure on the back of the cushion cover.

  • Turn a 2.5cm (1″) hem on both back pieces

Put the first piece along the top edge when positioning the back pieces. This way the opening will “face’ down when the cover is turned right sides out

  • Position the back pieces right sides down on the right side of the panel

I like to overlap the two back pieces by approximately 10cm (4″) so that the opening stays closed, even if a “fat” cushion insert is used.

  • Stitch around all four sides
  • Trim the corners

Trim the points off the corners to make it easy to turn the cushion cover right sides out

  • Press the seam open

Pressing the seam open will give a neat edge once the cover is turned right side out.

  • Turn the “bag” right sides out
  • Fill the cushion cover with an insert & you are done!

All that is left to do is to pop the cushion insert into the cover and you have gift ready to give to a favourite person.

Easy Peasy!

Of course you can get fancy and use a zipper placket on the back,

A zipper placket closure can be used on the back of the cushion cover

or add nice buttons over the hem, or simply use some velcro inside the opening.

You could always use this method and turn the back of the cushion into the front, by stitching some feature buttons over the opening

But it is not really necessary, a beautiful fabric, or appropriate panel, and a simple finish will make a quick cushion cover when a gift is need in a hurry.

More cushion inspiration to get you started:

Ivory Springs Virtual trunk show  gave me the idea for this post.

More interesting ways to incorporate embroideries and fabric panels into cushions.

You might like to start planning your cushions for next year with this Cathedral Window pattern

Or if you can’t resist Cathedral Windows, make a pin cushion.

This “roll up” cushion is a clever idea for summer

See More of Ladybirdee’s quilted cushions

Not an instant gift, but you could plan ahead to make a beautiful cushion like the one Knitsnquilts made earlier this year.

More of Ladybirdee’s hand quilting

PS:  Don’t forget to call back on the weekend to read more about the Australian Quilt Market.

The Universal Welcome of Quilt Shows

I have been quilting for 28 years and I have visited dozens of quilt shows.

When touring the USA recently, I visited a community quilt show in Sonora, California that was held at the fairgrounds.

 The moment I entered the grounds I was greeted with the friendly smiles and familiar signs leading to the raffle tickets, refreshment area, shops and the members market full of handmade items for sale.

Sonora, California Quilt Show

I could have been at any quilt show anywhere in the world.  The universal kindness and generous spirit is something all quilters share.

The only difference, that became evident as I looked at the quilts, was the overall fabric colour used. In general, the colours reflected the environment around the quilter. The colours in that part of California were different to the colours one would see in many quilts here in Australia(THAT intense red earth).

Australian Colours in Lee Taylor’s Bargello                            

Gay Losher’s California Colours

Barb Young’s SNOW DAYS in Wisconsin USA
                                                    A Crazy Quilt made by Scott Mattson’s grandmother in the 1950’s-USA

Sometimes the quilt style was familiar but the actual subject matter was quite personal and unique to the location.

Detail from Everyday Life on the Reservation
Detail from Everyday Life on the Reservation

The friendships were evident in several group quilts and I particularly liked this quilt celebrating an 80th birthday.

Joice Swadell’s 80th Birthday Present from To Bee or Not To Bee members
Detail of Home is Where Your Friends Are

On my return, I attended a local quilt show near Tyabb in southeast Victoria. The similarities in the quilts and in the generous welcome were striking.

Linda Burns uses the One Block Wonder Pattern-USA


                                Ann Mill’s Kaleidescopes and Cubes from the Quilt Show Tyabb-AU

This Victorian show had a special activity in the refreshment area to keep visitors entertained while they enjoyed their coffee and light lunch.

Can You Name These Townships?

When home or away, visit a quilt show near you!

Tuesday Treats: Keeping thread clippers safe.

I have never been a fan of snips / thread clippers / shearers, that is until I was given this pair.

These handy little thread snips/shearers are very sharp

Their clipping action is very smooth so they rapidly became my handy, “go to” cutters for all my stitching.

But they had one BIG flaw ….. they didn’t feel safe in my carry around project kit. I was always worried that I would stab myself or, even worse, accidentally cut my current project ….a disaster waiting to happen.

The solution was a “five minute”job …. well half an hour if I am truthful.

A piece of tubing to hold the blades closed and a pretty little embroidered scabbard bag solved the problem

Materials to make your own snips scabbard:

This is the perfect project to use some “found” materials so look around the house for some sturdy fabric.

  • a small piece of  sturdy “found”  fabric (I unpicked an old jewellery bag) but a piece of felt, rip-stop nylon or “green” shopping bag will do the job
  • a small piece of interfacing
  • a piece of velcro
  • a spool of Cotton Mako’50
  • a small piece of plastic tubing or straw


Pattern Pieces:

The measurements will depend upon the size of the snips.

  • Measure the length & width of the snips to calculate the pattern pieces for the bag
  • Add 3/4″ (2cm” ) to the length & 1/2″  (1.5cm) to the width, for the seam allowances & top hem.
  • Use these measurements to cut 2 rectangles for the bag
  • Cut a third piece,  half the length of the bag rectangles x the width of the bag rectangles to make the tongue/tab

Making the Tongue/Tab

Note the position of the embroidery on the finished tab

  1. Iron the interfacing onto the wrong side of the tongue/tab fabric piece
  2. Embroider your chosen design down the length of the tongue/tab fabric.
    • Position the line of embroidery so that it will finish on the right side, in the middle of one half of the tab when it is a finished tube.
    • I  used Cotton Mako’ 50 and chose a pattern that had a semi-solid appearance so that it would stand out like a braid.
  3. Fold the tongue/tab piece in half lengthwise, right sides together, and stitch across one end, and up the length using a 1/4″ (6mm) seam
  4. Turn the stitched tube right sides out to display the embroidery, and hide the back of the stitching

Choose a design from the built in stitches on your machine

Making the Bag:

  1. Place the two “Bag” rectangles right sides together and stitch one long side together
  2. Next turn the raw edges on the top edge under twice, to the wrong side, to make a hem.  Stitch into place.
  3. Stitch the tongue/tab in place over the hem, on the wrong side, and  in the centre of one of the bag rectangles.
  4. Stitch the Velcro into place.
    • Put the “velvet” on the under side of the tongue/tab and the “hooks” on the right side of the opposite bag rectangle.
    • Make sure that the velcro positions pull the tab down firmly over the top of the bag.

Take care positioning the velcro so that the tab closes flush to the top of the bag

Now finish making the bag.

  1. Place the bag pieces right sides together and stitch down the long edge, and across the bottom edge using a 1/4″ (6mm) seam.
  2. Turn the bag out to the right side, pulling the corners out square.
  3. Put a small piece of tubing over the pointy ends of the clippers & insert into their new scabbard.


I’ve used the finest of the Cotton Mako’  thread range to stitch the embroidery. If you use one of the thicker threads, choose a more open embroidery design.

Here is a great reference to get you started using the machine embroidery stitches on your machine

Another Quick and Easy gift idea for the textile stitchers in your circle

Making French Braid.

Earlier this year, one of us at Always Quilting celebrated a significant birthday and the rest of  the staff  “plotted and schemed”   to make a surprise gift, a patchwork bag. 

As you will see from that blog post, the birthday bag consisted of  three different panels, one of which was a French Braid.

Completed Birthday Bag

I had never made French Braid before, but the process is really easy, and once you have mastered the basic technique, you can use this little border in your projects, to great effect.

First of all you need to cut your strips, usually lots of them!  The size will be determined by your project and the size of the finished border, but a good rule of thumb is to make them approximately three times as long as they are wide.  For the bag, I cut my strips 4 1/2 inches by 1 1/4 inches.

Sewing the first seam.

With right sides together, sew the end of one strip to the side of another strip as shown above.  Finger press the seam to one side.

From now on you will be sewing along the side of the strips.  Now sew  the next strip in place along its side.

Adding the third strip.

Continue adding strips in this fashion on alternating sides until you have the length you require.

Adding strips on alternating sides.

Finish with an even number of strips i.e. the same number on each side.

I finger press as I go and press with the iron every so often, to ensure that I am turning each strip back firmly before sewing the next strip in place.

The piece is growing.

When the piece is long enough, you can use your ruler and rotary cutter to trim off the uneven edges along each side, giving the border width you desire.

And that’s all there is to it!

Tuesday Treats: Have you seen the Aurifil Designer Blog Hop?

My Tuesday Treat seems to be getting later and later each week!

This week I can blame the late posting on the Public Holiday … where I live, the first Tuesday in November is always a holiday for the Melbourne Cup.

Immediately after Melbourne Cup we all start thinking about, and planning, our Kris Kringle gifts for our groups so the Aurifil Designer’s Blog Hop is perfectly timed.

The first ornament in the Aurifil Blog Hop was designed by Sherri Falls

The 2012 Aurifil Designers have created Christmas ornaments just for you!

Over the next 4 weeks they will each be posting a free ornament pattern on their blog so you will need to visit three blogs each week, to collect the 12 ornament patterns to make the set.

However, you have plenty of time to collect all the free patterns.

The Blog Hop only started this week with the pattern for the ornament above, found on Sherri Fall’s blog:   Little Bits of This & That

The free pattern for the second ornament, below, can be collected from Gail Pan’s blog: Gail Pan Designs

When you visit each blog, not only do you get a free pattern to stitch a pretty Christmas Tree Ornament, if you follow the instructions on the Designer’s blog you can enter to win some great prizes from Aurifil.

Truly a Win / Win situation!

Look for this Blog Hop symbol on the Aurifil Designer’s websites to collect your free patterns

So be sure to visit each blog in the series, to enjoy some Christmas stitching!

Don’t forget, if you need some Cotton Mako’ thread to stitch out these designs, exactly as they were planned by the designers, you will find it in our online store.

Tempting Summer

This week “Always Quilting” received another huge delivery of stock from Milan in Italy.  We were eagerly looking forward to seeing our storeroom full of thread again, and the front of store shelves groaning under the weight of lots of lovely thread!   As well, we always enjoy seeing the new Kit Art boxes unpacked, as there are so many gorgeous colours to enjoy in the special selections.

Some more lovely colours in our Kit Art boxes

Coming up soon is the  wholesale quilt market to be held in late November in Melbourne.  As Melbourne is our home ground, some of the staff are fortunate enough to attend the weekend market. Usually Jenny goes to the Sydney one by herself, while we are left to ‘man’ the shop in her absence.   It is always lovely to catch up with old customers and introduce Aurifil thread to new customers at the Quilt Market.

Aren’t these colours summery????

Jill Finlely selected the lovely colours shown above

Of course we like to make the occasion special and put an extra effort into making our booth enticing and creative.  We have chosen a new ‘theme’ already and will blog about it in the last week of November.   Just to give you a little peek at what we are planning, one of the new Kit Art boxes we unpacked, was appropriate for our theme!

1300m on each of the 12 spools – all in one special box – fabulous!

Perhaps you can guess what the theme may be????

Kit Art mini