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!

Another Cushion

I am pleased to tell you (also pleased with myself!) that I have completed another cushion, this time to replace one I made about 15 years ago which has now become faded and needs to be retired.  For a while the new cushion “makings” resided in my patch work project pantry, which featured in an earlier post. ‎

All my cushion "makings".

All my cushion “makings”.

The pattern I used is by Deborah Kemball    from her book  Beautiful Botanicals, and features many tiny applique components which I needle-turned in place.  It also uses some very narrow bias strips for the stems.  I previously  posted a tutorial on making bias strips without using bias bars as described in Deborah’s book.  If you missed this post you can find it at…s-without-bars/ 

Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the applique in process, but here is a close up of part of the cushion, showing  details of the applique, embroidery  and bugle beading on the ends of the stamen.  I used Aurifil Cotton Mako Ne 50 for the applique, Ne 40 for the machine piecing, and Ne 12 for the embroidery, and have on hand Ne 28 should I decide to add quilting.

Close up detail of applique.

Close up detail of applique.

To ensure a neat and firm closure I inserted a zip in the middle of the cushion back.  You can also make a button closure, use press-studs or Velcro, or simply have a large enough overlap with the back pieces, so that the opening doesn’t gape.  However, if you like to have a full type of filling (a fat cushion as opposed to the skinny variety), I have found that a zip  works well.  Don’t be tempted to make the opening too small, as this makes it difficult to fit in the cushion insert.

To finish the edges of my cushion, I used a binding, just as I would bind the edges of a quilt.  I have used this method before and found that it works well.  I used a double fold binding which I cut 2 inches wide, which resulted in a neat narrow finish.

Adding the binding.

Adding the binding.

The binding is machined to the cushion front with the corners  mitred in the usual manner. Then the binding is folded to the back and stitched down by hand.

The binding sewn into place.

The binding machined to the cushion front.

Since I used some embroidery in the cushion construction (in the stamen, tendrils and flower centres) and sewed through both the top and the batting, the cushion top and batting are satisfactorily sandwiched together, so from a construction point of view, there is no need to add additional quilting.  Quilting in this case would be for decorative purposes only, and I don’t think I will add any, as the top is already quite full and busy, but I will live with it in situ for a few days to see what I decide.

Embroidery acts as quilting.

Embroidery acts as quilting and sandwiches the components together.

Here is the finished cushion in place on its chair.

My new cushion in situ.

My new cushion in situ.

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.

Design Transfer Dilemma

A couple of years ago I purchased 2 patterns from Carol Roberts of Cherry Pie Designs.   One of them is “Paris”, a cushion pattern which I made earlier this year and blogged about  The other is “Louisa”, a lovely applique quilt.  It has taken me some time to work out what fabrics I want to use, but finally I found some reproduction fabrics and so I set about preparing for action.

Getting ready for action: my “delicious” fabrics and matching Aurifil 50 weight threads.

The pattern requires that several sections be cut and joined together before marking on the fabric.  I like to make a photocopy of the pattern pieces that I plan to cut,  so that my original is always intact and “safe”.

Piecing the photocopied pattern sections together.

The centre background panel of this quilt is cut 110cm by the width of the fabric, so is quite a big piece of fabric with which to applique and thus brings its own challenges.  As you can see, the centre is marked out in quarters.  However, when I came to transfer the pattern using my lightbox, I discovered that not only was I struggling to see the design through the background fabric, but the little bit I did manage to mark was difficult to pick up, despite trying a variety of marking tools.  This dilemma caused for some brow-furrowing moments, until I remembered the technique of using a design overlay.

This is a technique which is used by Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins of Piece O Cake Designs and you can watch a very informative video of it here.
Using this method, you position and pin your applique pieces directly onto the background fabric, without having to use a marking tool to “draw” on the fabric.  As you will see if you look at this link, they advise the use of a piece of clear vinyl to make the overlay, but I did not have any on hand at the time, so I used a piece of very fine non-adhesive Vilene.  I realised as I went on that this has the advantage of being able to be pinned more easily in place, whereas the vinyl can tend to slip on the background fabric.  I used a lead pencil to mark the design onto the Vilene.

Marking the design onto the Vilene overlay.

Once the design is marked on the overlay, it is ready to be positioned over the background fabric.  I found it helpful to carefully fold the background fabric in half in each direction and lightly crease it, then run a tacking stitch along the crease in a contrasting thread, so that I have an accurate centre mark.  This is valuable as a reference point each time you position the overlay.
Because the design I am using has bias stems, I also found it helpful to cut out “windows” where the stems will lie.  To prevent undue distortion and movement of the overlay, I left a few “bridges” in the windows.

Cut out windows for the placement of bias stems leaving some bridges.

With the overlay accurately in place, (pinned if necessary), you then gently slide the applique piece you are about to sew, between the overlay and the background.  When you are happy with its placement you can secure its position with small applique pins.  For bias stems, I add these through the windows so that I can curve them into place as required, trying to afix the inside (short) curve first and then slightly stretching the outside curve.

Positioning the stems through the windows.

Bias stem and applique piece partially sewn in place

Adding another applique component.

So far this method of transferring the design is working very well.  And in case you are wondering what the centre looks like, this is the progress to date.

The centre panel so far…lots of sewing ahead of me!!

This project will keep me happily sewing for some time and maybe a future blog will show you more progress.  In the meantime, I hope these design transferring tips prove helpful for you.

Dressed at Last!!

Some time ago I purchased a cushion pattern designed by Carol Roberts www  My intention was to make a pair of cushions for our “naked” family room sofa.

When we went on holiday in January, I decided this would be a suitable hand project to take with me.

The cushions have some applique which I did using the needle- turn method and some English paper piecing. I used Aurifil Ne 50 thread which is lovely and fine and enables neat stitching.

Constructing the cushion top.

I then used Aurifil Ne 12 thread in a contrasting colour to lightly quilt the tops.  This added definition to the design without overwhelming it.

Adding the quilting.

Once the tops were completed, I joined them to the cushion backs by machine.  The pattern suggested using binding to do this, in the same way you bind the front and back of a quilt.  I had not used this method on a cushion before, but was very pleased with the neat appearance this created.

A finished cushion.

Now my sofa is “dressed”……..but my husband wants to know what I intend to do about the naked armchairs!!

Quilted cushions

Cushions using Cotton Mako' Ne 12 for the hand stitching detail

I finally completed sewing up these cushions, destined for my family room couches.  The gorgeous panel of cotton canvas fabric came from Needles and Pins at Warrandyte in Melbourne, and is a Denyse Schmidt design called ” Patchwork Promenade” from the Country Fair range.    I backed the cushions with another fabric in the range and piped them with an ‘old gold’ cord which seemed to work well with the variety of colours.  

This is the fabric that I used for the cusion backs. Don't you just love this fabric range?

Naturally I used an Aurifil thread for the hand quilting – the Ne 12 which worked really well – it just glided through the material and light batting. 

A close up view of the Cotton Mako' Ne 12 stitching

  I have 2 panels left over, so I am going to make a ‘tote’ bag up using the rest – and of course quilt them – but I think I will machine quilt them with the Ne12.

By the way, Kay at Needles and Pins is also an Aurifil stockist!!!