A finish in time for Spring

I was pleased to finally complete my ” A Modern Welcome ” Block of the Month we have been doing on the Always Playing with Thread blog. Judy has been posting the instructions each month, and I have been trying to keep up with each step. It has been fun, and although I consider myself to be an experienced quilter, I have enjoyed following her instructions on how to make flying geese or four patches or half square triangles.

I designed a different centre block and have worked with a completely different set of charm squares I was given by Judy.

Ladybirdee's feathered friend applique design

Ladybirdee’s feathered friend applique design

I’ve added another vine, leaves and berries in the right hand side of the block instead of doing some extra embroidery. Here Ne12 Cotton Mako was used.

closeup centre

For the backing I used some of the remaining charm squares and some of the white fabric I used for the front of the quilt.


This modern quilt was sewn in Ne 40 weight Cotton Mako – and was minimally quilted in the same weight of thread. I used 2021 (white), 1125 (blue) and 2524 (violet) – these threads are always a dream to use and I never have problems with them.


I decided to use a different material for the binding than the remainder of the charm squares – I think the Kaffe Fassett fabric cut on the bias picks up the colours of the quilt quite well.
closeup binding

My garden has some beautiful camellias in flower at the moment, and so I couldn’t resist picking two to complement the colours of the quilt.


When I finished my quilt someone said how spring like it looked. As I don’t have anything for the “spring season” I am happy it looks fresh and light.

Complete quilt

Wednesday Wonder: Song Birds sing with Aurifil

Yesterday, I went out for the day with my patchwork friendship group so I ran out of time to prepare a ‘Tuesday Treat” this week, but all is not lost as it has given me an opportunity to share a “Wednesday Wonder” with you.

This delightful design, by Anita Goodesign has been stitched with Aurilux

This delightful design, by Anita Goodesign has been stitched with Aurilux

The photo was sent to me by one of our customers, a machine embroiderer, who took advantage of our Aurilux sale earlier in the year. She has asked not to be named, but said this in the email that accompanied the photo:

Here is my finished Aurilux project. The designs are from the Anita Goodesign collection called song birds, I am very happy with it , the threads are wonderful.

Ps you are welcome to post the photo but please don’t use my name

When we were discussing her order, she sent the photo below to show part of the project:

A close up of one of the birds in the design.

A close up of one of the birds in the design.

When she sent this photo she said:

……. I really like the  Aurilux threads and have been contemplating buying the full set for a while now  as my few colours are a bit limiting I also noticed your wonderful new cotton mako chest they look very smart  wish there was one for the Aurilux. Here is my latest project using Aurilux, it has so much more texture than if done on other threads.

It is a real treat for us to see the work that people stitch with the Aurifil threads.

If you would like to see your project featured in a future “Wednesday Wonder” send us an email with a good quality photo, and some information about the project and threads used.

We would love to hear from you.

Always Quilting answers your questions about: Bobbin Freckles

I received an interesting question this week about how to solve the spotty effect that happens when the bobbin thread pulls up to the top, or the top thread pulls through to the back, when you are quilting.

The black bobbin thread is popping through to the top in this quilting line

The black bobbin thread is popping through to the top in this quilting line

I know some people like to make this happen deliberately when they are thread painting as it can add an extra highlight colour but, for other people, it can be very frustrating when quilting.

The black thread popping to the top didn't look too bad in the photo above but look what happens when the light portion of the variegated thread pops to the back of the quilt.

The black thread popping to the top didn’t look too bad in the photo above but look what happens when the light portion of the variegated thread pops to the back of the quilt.

Kim Asked:

Hi Jenny,
I’ve been trolling the Internet and just thought I would ask you as I can’t find the answer that I need. I am using Aurifil 50w thread for quilting an all cotton quilt, batting as well. I am using a red thread on top and a white on the back. No matter how much I adjust the tension in both the top and bobbin I’m either getting a red dot of fabric thru the back or a white dot of fabric thru to the front. I’ve changed to the finest needle I have which is a 60/8, thinking that by creating a smaller hole this might help. Can I ask please, what needle size you would normally recommend with this thread weight?  Any help will be greatly appreciated.
Thanks and regards,  Kim

Our advise was:

Dear Kim

Longarm Quilters call the phenomena that you are talking about “Freckling”.

It happens because two very strong contrasting colours are used. When quilting, the machine is being forced to work in manner that does not allow the needle to penetrate the fabric to pull up the bobbin thread before the machine (or in this case the quilt) has been moved.

Ideally the needle & bobbin thread should form a lock in the middle, between the layers being stitched, but because of the way we move the machine head (or quilt top) this does not always happen perfectly when quilting.

If the machine was stationery, and the feed dogs were moving the fabric under the foot in a controlled manner, as happens for general sewing, there would be less freckling but there is still no guarantee if 2 very strongly contrasting threads are used.

A different needle will not make a difference. The only way to reduce the freckling is to compromise with the thread colour to reduce the contrast between the colour of the thread in the needle & bobbin. Try a softer red & a creamier “white’ to reduce the contrast.

Regards, Jenny

And the happy result was:

Jenny thanks so much for your email. It is the strong contrast that’s doing it! Strong red and plain white!

I’ll experiment with some other colours and see if I can’t find a compromise. I really do appreciate you taking the time to answer my email. I was completely frustrated and knew it wasn’t the thread or machine.

Now I get to go and buy some more Aurifil lol.

Have a great day, Kim

The solution to my “freckle” quilting above would have been to use a solid coloured thread in the bobbin that was in the same colour family as the variegated thread.

I know that If I can twist the needle & bobbin threads together, and they blend rather than shout out, any freckling in the stitching will be less obvious and the colour more consistent over the entire quilt.

I always match a solid thread colour with a variegated thread to minimise the effect of freckles.

I always match a solid thread colour with a variegated thread to minimise the effect of freckles.

This twisting trick works for highly contrasting solid thread colours as well. If you must use a different colour in needle and bobbin then find  a compromise with the threads that allows them to meld together to form a new colour that will sit well on the quilt.

Of course it is sometimes also necessary to adjust the needle or bobbin tension to loosen, or tighten, one of the threads but that is answer for another time.

We plan to make “the answer your question” post a regular feature so do send us a question and we will see if we can help.

No guarantees but we will do our best.

Tuesday Treats: Clever colours … thread colours for piecing that is

Some thread colours are clever, they are chameleons, changing colour depending where they are used and I am not referring to those old solar-active, colour change, threads from last decade.

Some of my favourite chameleon colours in my favourite thread weight

Some of my favourite chameleon colours in my favourite thread weight

This week we had several requests to pick piecing colours for customers, and this started a lively discussion among the staff.

Should we pick true clear colours for each colour family?

Do we pick light & dark colours?

Do we include black & white?

and so the discussion went.

We eventually settled on colours from each colour family, but chose muted versions of the colour where some black had been added to ‘dirty’ the true colour.

This softened version of a colour will absorb, rather than reflect, light so that the thread will disappear into the colour of the fabric.

A selection of piecing colours from the Aurifil Cotton Mako' range

A selection of piecing colours from the Aurifil Cotton Mako’ range

Our selection was also influenced by the fact that we were picking colours for patchwork rather than for general sewing.

When dressmaking, you are usually stitching the same fabric colour to itself so the thread colour chosen is based on the colour of the one fabric.

Quilt design in grey scale

Quilt design in grey scale

However, when joining pieces together for patchwork you are working with light, medium & dark shades, to create the pattern, so the thread has to work across both light and dark fabrics.

Then add in the complexity that the pieces will often be cut from a multitude of different colour families to make up the light, medium or dark pattern piece and it starts to make sense to choose a thread that is not a distinct colour.

Same design with colour

Same design with colour

This is where our idea of using chameleon colours comes into play.  Rather than matching the thread exactly to the colour of the fabric, look for a colour that will blend across the fabric colours.

This brown thread blends very well with fabrics in the red family.

This brown thread blends very well with fabrics in the red family.

I am not a fan of the “I only piece with Grey” thinking, I much prefer to use a thread that has a connection to the colour family that is being pieced.

This may mean that a brown, with a hint of red, will work better than a thread that is a true red or a dirty khaki green could be better than a thread in a more distinct green colour.

So our final selection included light, medium & dark colours within each family that had been muted by the addition of black.

We also added in a true bright white, as anything else would look wrong when stitching a true white fabric, and some very dark colours for the times that you are working with a rich dark fabric palette.

Download a list of our favourite piecing colours to build your own piecing thread collection.

(The document download is a FREE service accessed via the Box file sharing website. You do NOT have to be a member, or sign into the website, to access the document. Simply ignore any such request that may pop up.)

The piecing colours, suggested in the list, will work for both hand and machine piecing.

Please leave a comment to tell us about your favourite piecing colour.

2012 Calendar Quilt finally finished

You may remember us posting stories about the 2012 Aurifil embroidery block of the month…. Judysew4th made her quilt using Cotton Mako’ 12 and a lovely linen fabric.  Her quilt was finished months ago.

I, on the other hand, used Lana 12, and a softly felted wool fabric,   and only finished my quilt recently.

My 2012 embroidered quilt is finally finished

My 2012 embroidered quilt is finally finished

In fact, it really isn’t quite finished as it still needs some quilting in the borders.   I had an incentive to get it to this point so I rushed the “finishing” to have the blocks together for a trade show in June.

As the wool fabric made the blocks bulkier than the original plan I decided to keep the piecing simple. I put a frame around each and then sashed them altogether with a setting stone in the corners.

the blocks were framed, then set with sashes and cornerstones

The blocks were framed, then set with sashes and cornerstones

The woollen fabrics used for the frames have been sourced from my stash of “recyclables’.  I can see two old skirts from seventies, pieces gifted to me when friends have been cleaning out their cupboards and even a piece from my husband’s old dressing gown.

The blocks were framed with recycled wools

The blocks were framed with recycled wools

Talking of husbands,  I had a light bulb moment when he asked why I had stitched the word “Summer” with a wool thread. When I explained that the blocks made up a northern hemisphere calendar he wanted to know why I hadn’t made it a southern hemisphere calendar.  Duh!

I had already changed the embroidery medium that had been used by the designers of this quilt. Why didn’t I think to re-arrange the blocks into a southern hemisphere calendar?

Well I don’t plan to unpick the quilt (it took me long enough to make one quilt!! I don’t plan to make it a second time.) but I thought that I could re-arrange the blocks in a photo-montage.

Here, the blocks are re-arranged to make a southern hemisphere calendar with winter in the middle of the year

Here, the blocks are re-arranged to make a southern hemisphere calendar with winter in the middle of the year

If you didn’t collect the patterns last year, they are still available on the website for free download.

Both the Lana threads and the Cotton Mako’ 12 threads are available for purchase from our online store.

It is never too late to start a new project, and this calendar is not date specific so it can be stitched at any time regardless of whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere.

Tuesday Treats: Another chance to be an Aurifil winner

The internet is overrun with competitions of all variety but every so often I come across a simple one, like this, that really is worth sharing.

The AURIbuzz blog, the official Aurifil blog, has a great competition running at the moment to win an exclusive box of 12 Cotton Mako’ threads but be quick as it closes on 15th August.


The prize is an exclusive set of 12 large spools of Aurifil Cotton Mako’

It is really easy to enter.  All you have to do is visit the AURIbuzz blog  and leave a comment answering a simple question about your favourite quilting style.

And here you can see the thread colours inside the box.

And here you can see the thread colours inside the box.

However, here is my tip!

Take the time to read the blog post first before scrolling to the competition question and comments. It features a very clever art quilter, Luke Haynes,  and the photos of his portrait quilts are worth a look.

The competition is open to international entries and closes on 15 August 2013 so don’t waste time. You could be the lucky winner.

More about Luke Haynes

Quilts and tutus on show!

Last month I was fortunate to escape Melbourne’s wintery weather and holiday for a fortnight in Queensland.  Fortunate indeed because I was able to visit “Quilts 1700-1945” during my time in Brisbane.  This exhibition of more than 30 quilts, bedhangings and other handcrafted items is from the Victoria and Albert Museum and would, I think, represent one of the most important quilt exhibitions ever to come to Australia. http://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/exhibitions/current/quilts_1700-1945

In addition to this treat, the Rajah Quilt was also on display, something that doesn’t occur very often because of the need to preserve this important historical item. http://www.nga.gov.au/rajahquilt/

Signage for the exhibition.

I joined a free guided tour (provided by volunteers) which was a wonderful way to learn lots of interesting details about the quilts’ history and construction as well details of society of the time.  Who knew that it was the norm for women to entertain in their bedrooms in the eighteenth century? I certainly didn’t, but of course it explains why wealthy women used their bed quilts as a showpiece to display their craftsmanship.

Photos cannot be taken in the exhibition (the light would be detrimental to the textiles), so unfortunately I cannot share visually with you some of the wonderful things I saw.

For example…

…the quilt made by an officer in the British Army in 1864 who was recovering from TB.   Thousands of tiny hexagons made from thick uniform material.

…a clamshell  bed curtain made for a four poster by orphans in the workhouse. Over 6400 pieces!!

… the incomplete Changi quilt made by young girl guides for their leader, using scraps and threads taken from the seams of clothing.  It was worked on for a year before being removed by a guard, and that it survives today seems quite miraculous!

Ladybirdee has alerted me to these short videos which are interesting to view. http://tv.qagoma.qld.gov.au/mediatype/videos/?exhibition=quilts

One of the things that struck me was the colours and designs of the fabric.  The reproduction fabrics so readily available to us today are a true representation of the style fashionable so many years earlier.

Clamshells used in a current project.

Clamshells used in a current project.

This  is one of my current projects, Queen Square by Sue Ambrose.  Four of the blocks use Clamshells, but fortunately for me, only 12 Clamshells are used in each block .   So only 48 to make, not 6400 as in the bedhanging on display in the exhibition..

Here is the finished block.  The colours and design would have fitted well with some of the antique quilts on display.

Reproduction style fabrics.

Reproduction style fabrics.

A display of quilts by Ruth Stoneley (1940-2007) entitled “A Stitch in Time” was also on display in a separate exhibition at the gallery.  http://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/exhibitions/current/ruth_stoneley_a_stitch_in_time Ruth was a very inspiring and innovative craftswomen and I shopped at her store when I lived in Brisbane in the 1990s. Some of the items on display reflected the trends of time in which they were made, but some were ahead of their time.

Qld July 2013 044

“A Women’s Work is Never Done” by Ruth Stoneley.

By chance I happened to also come across another interesting exhibition at the Queensland Performing Arts Complex, just over the road from the art gallery.

Ballet costume exhibition.

Ballet costume exhibition.

This was a free display of ballet costumes used by dancers of The Australian Ballet and Queensland Ballet.  Again, I was not allowed to take photos, but it was a very interesting insight into the costumes, the development of the tutu, and showed how a classical tutu is constructed. (A bit different to how my grandmother toiled to make ballet costumes for me!) http://www.qpac.com.au/event/Tools_of_the_Trade_13.aspx

And as if I didn’t have enough stimulation I also took in a regional food festival held at Southbank on the same day.  Thanks Brisbane for such an enjoyable day!

Not a Tuesday Treat: A Wednesday Woe, no winner today

Last month we ran a photo competition on Flickr, designed as a progress report, for the free Modern Quilt Welcome block of the month quilt we have been offering on the blog.

We thought that it would be an easy way to give away some Aurifil thread packs but we were wrong ……

One of our alternate applique designs. Download the pattern using the link below

It was a progress report, the quilt didn’t have to be finished.

In fact I almost expected to get a couple of photos of bundles of fabric with an “it is in the planning stage” comment, instead the only photos entered on the group page were our examples.

Either no one is making our little quilt … a sad thought

….. or these days it is too much trouble to add a photo to Flickr

…. maybe Instagram has become the preferred photo sharing platform.

Once my blocks were finished I had fun testing layout options. still not decided!

Once my blocks were finished I had fun testing layout options. I am still not decided!

We really did want to give away some thread packs, so if you haven’t started making your Welcome Quilt now is a good time to do so, to be ready for the next photo lucky draw.

You can collect the free patterns here  and start stitching.

(You do not need to register or “sign in” to access the patterns using this link. Once the page opens, simply use the “More Options” arrow, to the right of each file, to preview or download that file)

The Christmas Welcome applique option. download pattern using the link above

The next progress report will be in December so we will have to work out a better way for people to enter a photo for the lucky draw.

Help us decide by answering the poll:

If you haven’t been following the progress of Judysew4th’s quilt you will find a link to each post below:

Month One: The introduction to the Block of the Month

Month Two: Making Four Patches

Month Three: Using Half Square Triangles

Month Four: Combining Half Square triangles and Four Patches

Month Five: making Flying Geese

Month Six: Adding borders

Months seven through ten will add embroidery, plan the quilting, add bindings, labels & hanging sleeves until you end up with a small wall hanging quilt (24″ x 20″ finished) in time for Christmas, and our next photo competition.

The quilt has been designed to use fabrics out of your cupboard, and give you a way to try each of the four Cotton Mako’ thread weights on a small project.

Special Offer for blog followers:

Special Welcome Quilt Offer:

Save 10% when you purchase one spool from
each Cotton Mako’ thread weight
to make your quilt.

 Here is how to activate the Offer:

1.    Go to our online store

2.    Choose colours that will work with your fabrics.

3.    Make sure that you have selected one spool from each of the 4 Cotton Mako’ thread weights.

We chose a different colour for each task, and used a small spool of each of
Ne 50 for Applique,
Ne 40 for piecing,
Ne 28 for quilting &
Ne 12 for embroidery.

4.       Type “Welcome Quilt” in the comment box when checking out of the online store.

We will apply a 10% discount to 4 spools in your order before processing your payment.

A Modern Quilt- Month 6

This month we are sewing all the pieced blocks together and adding the border.

The diagram of the quilt’s  grid shows the remaining areas for your fabric placement.

Quilt design grid showing border space

Quilt design grid showing border space

You will have saved a variety of cut pieces left over from your block construction.

The border can include any left over cut pieces  2 ½” x 2 ½” or 2 ½” x 4 ½”.

I have used a variety of my left over pieces and I have also cut several of the remaining 5” charm squares to fit the space.

Some fabrics considered for the border

Some fabrics considered for the border

Sew each border separately and attach to your top. I have sewn the left side; the right side; top border and then  the bottom border.

After each border is added I press the seam toward the border.

Border Fabrics added will align with pieced blocks

Border Fabrics added will align with pieced blocks

ALL of the remaining pieces will be incorporated into the back and binding.

Your Modern Welcome top is almost finished.

The quilt, showing the pieced border

The quilt, showing the pieced border

Next Month we will add embroidery using your Aurifil 12wt thread.

Keep coming back in the following months for instructions for making the backing, quilting & binding the quilt