Another sewing month

While some of my work colleagues have been on holiday this month to warmer climes,  I’ve had to put up with cold Melbourne weather with only the occasional breaks in cold Melbourne temperatures.

However, my garden did tell me spring is on the way with bulbs coming up



and when out walking, the park showed me this


enough for the hay fever sufferers reach for their tissues and medications.

So, I haven’t got much to show for this month’s blog – other than some sewing.  My colleagues, will of course, have blog entries from all sorts of travel locations in the following weeks!  (sense a little envy here on my part?!).

First up is my work on the Quilter’s Newsletter Christmas Quilt (as reported on in my blog post last month).  I only have to make 20 of these little charmers – and that should be done in a week before the next download pattern comes available. No pressure here!Christmas QuiltThen I’ve been sewing a challenge quilt – can’t show much of that, except for the fabrics which were purchased in July and the deadline to get this one done is November:Challenge QuiltI’ve tried to do some more on my  ” Birdsville” by Wendy Williams:WW Birdsand help make blocks for a raffle for next year:

Raffle quiltand make a block for the guild’s retreat I attend each October with the theme “Step back in time” :

Retreat Block

In between times, I have completed a ‘modern’ baby quilt for a yet to be born first baby.  I can’t show the finished item yet, as it is a ‘surprise’ for the mum (and dad) to be:


I have brought out the tiny hexagons for another airing at the wholesale trade fair in November.  We are organising our display for the Aurifil booth:

Quilt Market

And finally, I have started my Christmas sewing (yes, it isn’t that long to go when you make gifts):

Christmas sewing

All in all, I think I have done a little bit of work this month – but the pile of unfinished items still seems to grow!

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sew Along Epidemic!

I admit it! I get very excited about patchwork and quilting. Sometimes I even finish some of the projects I begin with this unbridled enthusiasm.

My current passion is THE FARMER’S WIFE 1930’s SEW-ALONG. There is a ‘one stop page’ for all the information curated by GNOME ANGEL. (

My book arrived last week and I am busily preparing my patterns and choosing my fabrics for the September 28th start date.

The Farmer's Wife 1930s Book and Fabrics

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Book and Fabrics

I know I have promised some unique results from the 200g of scrap swap….

Scraps Become a 'new' fabric

Scraps Become a ‘new’ fabric

Half Square Triangles created with these great papers

Half Square Triangles created with these great papers from Quilters Barn

…and I will finish that project…
BUT, this is a SEW-ALONG and I have never done a SEW-ALONG like this before. The group has its own Facebook page and there are already over 2500 members. Can you picture the diversity and cleverness of all these Patchworkers sewing along? It quickens the pulse.
My bobbins are full and my needles are new.

Fabrics, Bobbin and Needles

Fabrics, Bobbin and Needles

Come on and join the world wide project that has developed a life of its own! You know you want to…think of it as using up lots of fabric you already have to make room for new fabric that hasn’t even been designed yet…..ooooo aaahhhhh.

Playing with Fabric and Making New Friends

I learn something new everyday. Sometimes the ‘new’ thing has been around forever…but, it is still new to me. For example, QUILT CLUB AUSTRALIA. This is a closed group (you have to ask to join) on Facebook.
This group has over four and a half thousands members. They describe themselves as “a bunch of seasoned and newbie quilters, from all over Australia……”. They do all sorts of exciting things.
Several of their activities involve swapping fabrics and/or finished items.
Charm squares can be swapped or a particular designer’s fabric line.

Charm Square Swaps

Charm Square Swaps

Swap Fabrics from your favourite designers

Swap Fabrics from your favourite designers

They share tips and links to a variety of quilt related information. They have been around for a while but I HAVE JUST DISCOVERED THEM!
I came upon this group because I have recently been involved in a swap with the Melbourne Modern Quilt Guild. Participants weighed 200grams of their finest scraps; placed them into a small postal bag with a self-addressed small postal bag, and sent them to the nominated distributor.

Parcels in the post full of goodies

Everyone who participated received a parcel. You would have thought I was waiting for a winning lottery ticket the way I ran to the post-box every day.
Note: if my family had seen my excitement over 200g of fabric scrap they would have wondered why I needed a room for the rest of my fabric collection!

200 grams of treasures

200 grams of treasures

I will be sharing the project(s) using my 200g of treasure in the near future.

Creating a 'NEW' fabric with my scraps

Creating a ‘NEW’ fabric with my scraps

In the meantime, have a look at what is ‘new’ in the quilting world. You may find yourself re-energised by QALs (quilt alongs), SALs (sew alongs) or swaps.

My Aurifil Dog

I attended the New Zealand Symposium in Manawatu earlier this year and was privileged to take a class with Melissa Burdon. Melissa transforms photographs into works of art.
I chose a photograph of my beloved Jack Russel, Dougal. He is 13 years old and has become MY dog even though he was a pet for my sons when they were young.

Meet My Dog, DOUGAL

Meet My Dog, DOUGAL

Using the computer program GIMP, the photograph is altered removing colour and leaving a gray scale image. This technique allows a tracing to be made of the subject separating areas by their shading.

My photo after GIMP

My photo after GIMP

For this class, our photos were shaded into 6 levels. Each of these shades translated into a shade of our chosen colour. I chose purple.

The process begins

The process begins

The picture is slowly built up a piece at a time until it is ready to place onto a background. Finding just the right background took some time until I found a print of his favourite thing…TENNIS BALLS.

The background

The background

Once the background was complete and Dougal was fused in place, it was time to quilt.

Aurifil Matches perfectly

Aurifil Matches perfectly

Using Aurifil Cotton Mako 40wt and 50wt threads the ‘fur’ began to ‘grow’.

The 'fur' grows

The ‘fur’ grows

Quilting the Toes

Quilting the Toes

Quilting the Collar

Quilting the Collar

All of the quilting was done with FMQ. Each tennis ball was carefully outlined so they would ’bounce’.

SIT....Good Dog!

SIT….Good Dog!

If you have a photo of someone or something special, have a go with GIMP and create your own fabric photo.

And now for something completely different

I was asked to join a friend and do a workshop learning how to make an art journal with the talented artist Ro Bruhn.  This type of work is slightly outside my comfort zone.   I do love ‘art quilts’ and using different processes to make an art quilt, but a journal was something completely foreign to me.  I hummed and haaaaed for a moment – and then thought it was worth the risk!  It was very self indulgent – it wasn’t going to be for anyone else – but me to enjoy.  Yes – I would go for it!!

We had to take a  mountain of ‘scraps’ – I have plenty of those – and some lace, and buttons, and zips, and braids and wool and envelopes and teabag tags  and anything else you think you could use in a journal-  including some special sacred fabric that you never had used (up until now) was also suggested!

Organised scraps for the journal cover

Organised scraps for the journal cover

I was able to use some of those bits and pieces people give me as they know I like sewing – not necessarily patchwork fabrics – brilliant!

First page in progress

First page in progress

The first few pages were easy enough on the first day but we had to return in a month’s time with more pages.  As the month wore on,  the inspiration and ideas waned a little and it became harder to think of more pages.  Oh – did I mention, that the lovely Ro suggested we try and make FOURTEEN PAGES IN THE MONTH!!    I did realise that 14 pages meant 14 mini quilts.

Some furnishing fabric and some hand made silk paper plus

Some furnishing fabric and some hand made silk paper plus

and this page is nearly finished

Nearly finished this page

And just to show a few more pages

091 and some silk flowers made for a cushion (that I never finished) get a new life!089and a bit of the glitter from braids and trims and an old Indian cushion found in an op shop.097some Kantha quilting with a dyed doily as contrast095Naturally I used Ne 50, Ne 40, Ne 28 and Ne 12 in the art journal construction!094

Discussing it with my workshop classmates we all seemed to have been burning the midnight oil trying to get the cutting and pasting done as well as the sewing.  It was worth it in the end ——- we all produced personal and creative books.  We learnt more about colour and  relaxing with our stitching (raw edge zig zag is encouraged) and ‘wonky’ lines are seen as artistic and not incorrect.

I had the best time – what a wonderful workshop – so free to decide what colour goes with another – not to worry about edges or straight lines or stitch length or neatness. Thanks Ro for the best 2 days of workshop – I am so looking forward to finishing my journal and maybe creating a new one (once I can tidy up some of the scraps (aka mess) in the sewing room.

English Paper Piecing…Hexagons and More!

Always Quilting recently blogged about hexagons and the pleasures of their constuction as well as the advantages they present for portable sewing projects.…rtable-project/ ‎

One of my “current”  projects uses some hexagons in its design and so I’ve been using the English paper piecing technique a bit recently.  In addition, several of my “forthcoming” projects also use this technique, so it has given me the opportunity to try out some methods and I’d like to share with you the way I have found works best for me.

blog photos English paper piecing hexagons
Hexagons used in my current project.

First you need to prepare your papers.  Traditionally quilters made their own papers from stiff paper or lightweight card (old greeting cards are often a good weight), but these days it is easy to buy pre-made papers in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  One of the advantages of buying pre-made papers is that they are accurately printed and cut.   If you would like to make your own you can go to and print them from your computer.  This site is worth checking out, as it allows you to select your shape and size requirements.

Once the papers are ready, you need to attach them to the fabric.  In the past quilters would pin or use a paperclip to hold the papers in place and tack them in position, usually through both the paper and fabric.

Just this week I saw advertised some papers which can be fused to the fabric.  They are made from soluable applique paper, and are currently available as pre-cut hexagons in 3 sizes with more to come.  After construction you can leave the papers in as a stabiliser or wash your item for a softer look.

Some sewers advocate using a the Sewline gluestick .  A dab of glue is used in the centre  to hold the paper in position, and then around the edges to secure the seam allowance in place.  This removes the need for pins or tacking, but when I tried this for myself, I found it quite difficult to remove the papers and as a result, the fabric edges also frayed and became messy.

Instead, I now employ a small dab of glue, just  in the centre of the paper as before, so that I don’t have to use pins which tend to distort the shape.

Use just a small dab of glue in the centre o your hexagon.
Use just a small dab of glue in the centre of your hexagon.

Then I tack the paper to the fabric, but I do not go through the paper, just the fabric, using a small overstitch to hold the fold in each corner and a small running stitch between corners.  I use a fine thread, Aurifil 50 weight,  for this task, and try to use a colour which blends in.  This means that I do not have to bother removing the tacking threads before appliqueing the hexagons to the background fabric..

Tacking the fabric, but not the paper.

Tacking the fabric, but not the paper.

It is important to iron the shapes as you make them before joining them together.

blog photos English paper piecing hexagons 005

Iron hexagons as you go.

Once the hexagons or other shapes are ironed and you have a nice crisp edge, you can whipstitch them together taking care to make sure that the corners meet neatly. Sixteen stitches to the inch is the recommended size for whipstitching.  As before,  Aurifil 50 weight is ideal and makes it easy to achieve almost invisible stitching.  Once again, I iron my joined shapes, with the papers still in place, before I applique them to the background.

In the next photo you can see how I have used a shape with a curved edge.  A small running stitch along the curve helps to gather in the fullness.  Corners and straight edges are dealt with as before.

Gathering the curved edge.

Gathering the curved edge.

Lastly, before appliqueing the shapes onto the background, you need to remove the papers.  This is done easily by flexing the hexagon and “popping” each paper out.  Small tweezers can assist with this.  As I said, I do not bother to remove the tacking.  Generally, papers can be re-used several times.

Cardboard papers are easy to remove after pressing.

Cardboard papers are easy to remove after pressing.

The  curved shapes used in the photo above only required joining at each tip as I was making them into a wreath.  You can see how effective fussy-cutting can be.

Pinning and appliqueing the shapes in place.

Pinning and appliqueing the shapes in place.

blog photos English paper piecing hexagons 015

More fussy cutting in these jewel shapes.

The curved shapes form the centre of my current project which is “Louisa” by Carol Roberts.  This is what the completed centre looks like.

blog photos English paper piecing hexagons 016

The centre of my quilt.

And if I remain on-task and am not too distracted by other projects or the housework, I will hopefully be able to share with you the finished quilt, or at least quilt top, before too long.

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?