The seasons they are a changing ….

It is not officially winter but it certainly feels that way.

autumnI spent much of my life living in places where there wasn’t a visible change from summer to winter, so I really enjoy the autumn colours.

I am not so fond of the drop in temperature, and the rain, but if it means that I get to change my shoes from sandals to boots it can’t be that bad.

shoesBut best of all I get to start a new winter stitching project!

In the past I’ve worked on a variety of projects using Aurifil Lana wool thread for my winter project.

A traditional embroidery stitche dwith aurifil Lana

A traditional embroidery stitched with Aurifil Lana

Machine embroidery blocks for my Wagga.

This Lana embroidery has been going for sometime but it is also close to being finished.

This Lana embroidery has been going for sometime but it is also close to being finished.

Hand embroidery

Wool applique can be fun, especially if you use Aurifil Lana for the stitching

Wool applique can be fun, especially if you use Aurifil Lana for the stitching


Miniature "Granny Squares" crocheted with Lana wool blend thread.

Miniature “Granny Squares” crocheted with Lana wool blend thread.

And I am not the only one playing with Lana in winter, judysew4th had a great time crocheting miniature granny squares for a scarf one year.

lana-project-2015I found a pattern for this sweet little woolen envelop for carrying my sewing essentials, so I think that I have found my project for this winter. I’ve hunted out some fabric and a selection of Lana wool threads for the embroidery so I am all set up.

If you want to try your hand at a project using the Aurifil Lana thread checkout the full colour range on the website.

While you are browsing have a look at the patterns as well to see if there is something to tempt you to start a new project.

Another hexagon bag (or two)

I must confess a real weakness for bag patterns. When I buy them I am full of enthusiasm and good intentions, but I am not very good at actually making/completing the bags.  Last year I bought a pattern, “Mill Girls Tote”,  from Sewn and Quilted.   It is designed by Vicki Bellino of Bloom Creek

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“Mill Girl Tote” pattern.

I purchased a lovely piece of border print fabric for the top and bottom borders.

another hexagon bag

Border print fabric “Pride and Purpose” by Kaye England for Wilmington.

I found some jazzy red handles which are perfect!!

another hexagon bag 010

The perfect handles.

I was able to utilise many fabrics from my stash to construct the hexagons for the centre feature. The hexagons are quite small, only 1/2 an inch.

Sewing bag 143

Fussy cutting some of the hexagons.

Sewing bag 144

The collection of hexagon “flowers” grows.

154 hexagons are required to make this panel.  I’m nearly there!

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Hexagon panel progressing well.

While I was beavering away on this project, my friends in a friendship group decided to make a bag, using this pattern, for one of our members celebrating a “big O” birthday. A group of us shopped together to select fabric.  Our choice this time was quite different from the fabrics I’ve used.

hexagon bag

Hexagon panel taking shape.

Various members of the group completed different sections of the bag.

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Bag outer constructed.

After much furtive activity and secret conversations, the birthday bag was completed and presented to our birthday girl.

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The completed birthday bag.

As for my bag….well I did confess at the outset that I am not good at completing bags.  And the decision to make another hexagon panel for the bag back  (rather than using a plain panel as in the pattern) will slow me down.  However,  I’m now re-enthused and keen to add this to my list of completed projects for 2014!

Time to fussy cut some more hexagons…..




The flavour of the month is …….felt

It seems as though the patchwork world has discovered the joys of working with wool felt. Some of us have been doing this for many years, but it is lovely to see this in patchwork items more and more. I have made bags,

Bag with felt flowers and table runners

Christmas tablerunner

and small wall quilts over the years,

camelias and have quite a collection of felts – some hand dyed wool felt, some quite thick, some thinner and some more like wool suitings.

Part of the felt stash

Part of the felt stash

This year I didn’t attend the Australian Quilt Convention in Melbourne, but a friend did – and she had booked into a workshop with Wendy Williams to make a cushion. I had a while ago purchased one Wendy’s colourful cushion patterns, so I decided to start stitching it (is that called living vicariously through a workshop?!!).

Cushion Pattern

Of course, I didn’t choose colours that went with my decor – I wanted to try some new colours and began selecting the basket colours first and using similar backgrounds (black and white) to the original pattern photo.


Then the fun starts – choosing all the gorgeous felted wools to go into the flowers and leaves. I had quite a few at home to choose from, and did buy one or two to add to my felt stash.

I used Wendy’s idea of putting fussy cut floral fabrics or graphic patterns as the centres of the flowers (a good way of making ‘cheddar cheese’ out of fabric!).


Having a selection of Ne 12’s and Lana threads to choose from was great – however I found I wanted to purchase some more as I didn’t quite have the ‘right’ colour at times. (a good way of extending my thread collection!).

Aurifil threads

I don’t think you can have just one new cushion – so I am going to make another one, using similar colours (another chance to buy some more fabrics??).

I haven’t got to the quilting stage – but I may hand quilt it in Ne 12 – or – on second thoughts, I may machine quilt it in Ne 28 or 40 to ‘puff’ up the flowers and leaves. The possibilities are endless!!

Nearly finished

I just have to complete the quilting, make a cushion backing, buy an insert and I’m finished!

Tuesday Treats: Quilt as you go hexagons.

I have had a number of requests for instructions to quilt -as -you -go hexagons so here they are!

You can apply theses instructions to any size hexagon you wish to make.

You need backing fabric, a contrasting feature fabric (or fabrics), fusible wadding (or non-fusible wadding and basting spray), and thread to match your backing fabric (Aurifil of course!!).  Scraps of fabric and wadding are ideal.

You use 2 hexagons, one smaller than the other.  The smaller one is the finished size. The smaller hexagon should have sides which measure 3/4 to 1 inch smaller than the large one.  Many different companies produce perspex templates for drawing hexagons, or if you’re confident you can draw your own using a compass. There are lots of instructions online.  Here is one

Mark and cut smaller hexagons from your featured fabric and your larger hexagons from your backing fabric.

Marking the large hexagon.

Marking the large hexagon.

For each hexagon, you also need to mark and cut small hexagons from fusible wadding and fuse onto the back of the feature fabric hexagons.

Ironing fusible wadding to small hexagons.

Ironing fusible wadding to small hexagons.

I like to use a quilting ruler and mark 3/4” from the edge on the top side of the backing hexagon.  This helps me to centre the small hexagon and have even seam allowances.

Marking the position of the small hexagon.

Marking the position of the small hexagon.

Place the small hexagon and the large hexagon together, wrong sides together with the fused wadding between, making sure that the small hexagon is centred.

Finger press a 1/4” seam towards the centre, all around the edge of the large hexagon , then fold over and pin in place.

Ready to sew.

Ready to sew.

Be careful to make neat corners – I like to ensure my corner seams all face in one direction (either clockwise or anti-clockwise).

Turning over the corners.

Turning over the corners.

Now sew all the seams in place from the front.  To do this I use the same stitch I use to sew down quilt bindings, making sure to add a couple of stitches into each corner to secure.  I use Aurifil Cotton Mako 40 for this task.

Stitching the edge.

Stitching the edge.

Securing the corner.

Securing the corner.

Make as many hexagons as you require in this way.  To join them together, place two hexagons right sides facing, making sure corners are exactly matched and whip stitch together using very small stitches and trying to take only a small “bite” into each hexagon.  Small stitches and small bites mean that you have a very neat appearance on the right side, with your stitches hardly visible!

Whip stitching hexagons together.

Whip stitching hexagons together.

This is all you need to do to make your quilt or item, but there are additional embellishments for those who are keen!!

You can add a row of quilting around the edge as I have done in the photo, or indeed quilt an appropriately sized motif in the centre.  My thread of choice here is Aurifil Cotton Mako 12.

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Quilting stitch around the edge.

You can also embroider along the joins if you wish.

Adding embroidery.

Adding embroidery.

When joining  hexagons together to make a quilt you can leave the edges as they are or make half-hexagons to fill in the spaces.  In the scrappy quilt  in the photo I have left the edges as they are.

Scrappy hexagon quilt.

Scrappy hexagon quilt.

There are many other possibilities for quilt as you go hexagons.  I have made a couple of hexagon bags using a Patchwork with Busyfingers pattern.

A friend is making small quilt as you go hexagons into mug bags.

The finished hexagon bag.

A hexagon bag.

If you haven’t tried this technique have a go! It’s a great way to use your scraps of fabric and batting.

Birthday Blocks Again!

In the middle of last year, we made a ‘Birthday Bag’ for someone special who works at Always Quilting.

Completed Birthday Bag

Completed Birthday Bag

You can read about it in our blog posts on 3 August 201210 November 2012 and 11 January 2013  where there are excellent descriptions of how each person went about their ‘row’ for the bag.

"Skewed" square in a square block

“Skewed” square in a square block

I made a row of six, 6-1/2″ blocks (three for each side of the bag). In the picture below you can see the braid and the sashing strips.


After all these months I have forgotten where I found the pattern !!  I have looked and looked for the pattern in some of my favourite foundation pieced books . It was relatively simple to make  if you are experienced with foundation piecing. If you aren’t – have a read of Judy’s excellent step by step instructions on the January post. Foundation piecing just takes time and patience (like most things with patchwork!).  Even though it doesn’t look like it from the photos, the rows were straight – and sewing accurate!

The Birthday Bag Instructions Continue


Last year we made a patchwork bag for a special birthday . We have had several requests for the instructions with the French Braid instructions provided back in November .

The following instructions are for the paper-pieced Crocus block pictured.

For purposes of instruction I have made a 6” block and used a printed block illustrating the numbered sewing order from my EQ7 program.

Crocus Foundation from EQ7

I also have pre-cut the fabrics adding ¾” to the square patch. The triangles are achieved by cutting a rectangle ¾” larger than the widest point.

Eight blocks were required for the Crocus Flower strip. You can create all the blocks for foundation piecing following the directions from our blog Making Quick Foundations for Paper Piecing.

The 50wt. Aurifil thread  is being used in black so the stitching is easy to see.

Important Note. All the fabric is placed on the unmarked side of the paper. Your numbered side is the side of the paper you will see when sewing.Patch #1

Place patch #1 and #2 with right sides together . Center these over the area mark #1 making sure you have a seam allowance on all sides. You can use large pieces of fabric until you become comfortable with the foundation technique. Patch #1 and Patch #2 rightsides togetherYour seam allowances can be trimmed to ¼” after each addition is sewn if needed. Sew on line beginning a few stitches outside the patch line.

Patch #2 and seam allowance

Patch #2 and seam allowance

Sewing line for Patch #1 and #2

Press fabric open.

Patch #3 ready to press

Patch #3 ready to press

Place fabric for #3 right sides together and stitch as before.Press the fabric open checking the seam allowance as before.

Continue placing the patches in numerical order, right sides together; checking seam allowances; stitching; trimming seam allowances to ¼” until all the patches have been added .

Patch #4 cut rectangle

Patch #4 cut rectangle

Patch #4 cut retangle for a triangle patch

Patch #4 cut rectangle for a triangle patch

Patch #5 cut same size as patch #4

Patch #5 cut same size as patch #4

Patch #5 pressed open

Patch #5 pressed open

Sew Patch #6 check seam allowances

Sew Patch #6 check seam allowances

Seam allowances will be trimmed to 1/4"

Seam allowances will be trimmed to 1/4″

Patch #7 cut rectangle

Patch #7 cut rectangle

Patch #7 pressed open

Patch #7 pressed open

Patch is placed on diagonal

Patch is placed on diagonal

Patch #9 Alternate method

Patch #9 Alternate method

Patch is sewn and seam allowance trimmed

Patch is sewn and seam allowance trimmed

I cut my rectangles 3/4″ larger than the widest part of the triangle I am creating. If unsure of the placement of the rectangle, place straight pins through the corners from the printed side to insure your patch seam allowance. The fabric is pinned for sewing. The ‘positioning’ pins are removed; the piece is turned over and the patch is sewn on the stitching line.

Block ready for last patch

Block ready for last patch

Patch #11

After all the patches have been sewn I trim the block INCLUDING the seam allowance.

Back of foundation for precise trimmimg

Easy removal of papersThe papers are removed once the blocks have been sewn together and secured in the bag row. REMOVE ALL PAPERS BEFORE LINING THE BAG.

This method can be used for any foundation block.Front of finished block

Check back for the final instructions and finishing directions so you can sew your version of our Birthday Bag.

Handbag Scensations

Some time ago I came across a pattern in Homespun Magazine (June 2010) for cute miniature handbags by Melbourne designer Nicole Mallalieu  

Miniature handbag ideal Christmas gift.

Miniature handbag ….an ideal gift.

These little bags are filled with lavender and hobbyfill and can be placed with your clothing and linen or used as pin cushions.  At the time I first saw this pattern, I made a mental note that these would be great gifts for friends and family, and could use fabrics and notions already on hand.

Bags in production.

Bags in production.

As December  approached, I decided I would make some of these little bags as Christmas gifts.

First of all, one for each of my colleagues at Always Quilting!  For this batch I did buy fabrics… for these girls I wanted to use items from within the Always Quilting store.  Of course this had to be done with a certain amount of secrecy, but I managed to purchase some fat quarters from the Cuzco range, some matching braid, and Aurifil threads, without arousing suspicion.

Bags made with Moda Cuzco fabrics.

Bags made with Moda Cuzco fabrics.

As you can see from the photos, I added the braid and rick-rack with a contrasting thread, Aurifil Cotton Mako 12 weight, for added interest.  To do this, you simply sew over the rick-rack in one direction, then go back in the other.

Adding decorative stitching to the fick-rack.

Adding decorative stitching to the rick-rack.

You can also decorate the braid with colonial (or French) knots. Again Aurifil Ne 12 is ideal.

Using Colonial knots to decorate braid.

Using Colonial knots to decorate braid.

In all I made 15 little bags, 14 as gifts for family and friends, and one for me!!

A batch of bags.

A batch of bags.

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!

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?