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!

My Waverley Quilt Show

A banner to quicken the pulse

A banner to quicken the pulse

Every two years my local quilt group presents the work of their members. I have been a member for 15 years and I went to my first Waverley Quilt Show just a few months after I moved to the area.

Every Quilt Show visitor received a bookmark

Every Quilt Show visitor received a bookmark

The quilts on display were all beautiful and represented every genre of patchwork from traditional to modern; hand pieced and quilted to machine pieced and machine quilted.
This year I entered my “Big O” Birthday Quilt. My friendship group, World Wide Wanderers, secretly worked on this quilt for a year. They even covertly contacted my husband to find out places of personal significance to me and then represented these places with its floral emblem.

My Big 'O' Birthday Quilt

My Big ‘O’ Birthday Quilt


Appliqué detail

Appliqué detail

I was so pleased to show off this quilt to the community. It represents so much more than a special birthday. It is a treasure from my dearest friends.

More appliqué detail

More appliqué detail

If you would like to see more quilts from our show, including the Viewer’s Choice Award winning quilt, visit Rose Lewis Quilting.

Fast, Fabulous, Fat Free Easter Eggs

I know that some people do, but I don’t usually make Easter decorations however the pretty egg ornaments designed by Gudrun Erla caught my eye this week.

I could see that, with a minor modification, I could make great fat free gifts for my stitching friends.

Fat-Free-eggsWhen I made my eggs I modified the instructions to leave a “pocket” into which I can pop a spool of thread ….. Aurifil of course, as a tasty treat for patchwork, quilting and embroidery enthusiasts.

The original instruction has the top edge of the pocket folded back, and stitched down to the egg, to make pretty trim.

Rather than do this on my “eggs”, I left the top edge open to form the pocket.

These really were fast & fabulous to make,  choosing the fabrics took more time than making the fabric eggs.


The eggs are stitched by putting right sides together and stitching around the outer edge.

Now I am not a fan of cutting the fabric to turn the fabrics right side out so I tested two methods:

  • Leaving a gap in the stitching and turning through the gap was tedious and is NOT recommended
  • Gudrun’s method of cutting a slit in the back fabric piece, and then sealing the cut edge, is definitely the way to go for this small project.

So get the pattern instructions and start making your own fabric eggs, either as ornaments or as pockets to hold a gift.

If you enjoy making special projects for Easter decorations you might like to pop over to our online store to purchase one of the last copies of Yvonne Skodt’s “Happy Easter” pattern book.


PS: Our books are on Sale 

Save 30%


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.

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.

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.

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. 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!)

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!

Back to reality after the summer holiday

For some reason, the Australia Day weekend always signifies the end of summer, and holidays, for me.


I know that we can still expect lots of hot days in February and March, but I still feel as if the “carefree” days of summer are over.

Melbourne icons, the Australian Open flags flying above a Melbourne tram

Melbourne icons, the Australian Open flags flying above a Melbourne tram

There will be no more days playing truant from work to go to the tennis, or cricket,  children go back to school and the rest of us start concentrating on the plans for the new year.

For me, it also means it is time to assess my sewing projects for the year.

Some carry over from the previous year, but many are close to being finished.

I am still working on the Aurifil 2012 Embroidery block of the month, but it will be finished quite soon.

I am still working on the Aurifil 2012 Embroidery block of the month quilt, but it will be finished quite soon.

I like to have several hand work “portable projects” prepared, ready to take to friendship “sit & sew” meetings.

They are also essential for those wasted hours sitting in waiting rooms when travelling or for sitting through some of the sporting events that I attend by “obligation” rather than choice.

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.

I sort each project into its own bag, with scissors, threads and anything else particular to the project.

It is a simple matter of picking up a bag as I head out the door, but the hand stitching on most of these projects is close to being finished.

This little scissor keeper is a pattern in the making. So watch this space early in the year if you want to make your own version.

This little scissor keeper is a pattern in the making. So watch this space early in the year if you want to make your own version.

I am going to have to set up a new project for 2013.

It would appear that 2012 was an embroidery year so maybe it is time I worked on an applique.

I’ve been collecting patterns for a while,  so where shall I start.

A decision is required ….. let me know what you think.

I have a collection of applique patterns waiting to their turn to become the project of the year.

I have a collection of applique patterns waiting their turn to become the project of the year.

And a final word about Australia Day.  It just wouldn’t be the same without a lamington or two.

Lamingtons are another Australian icon.

Lamingtons are another Australian icon.

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.

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: The Caswell Quilt, a beautiful applique quilt

This week I am featuring another popular Australian designer.

Threadbear, in Castlemaine, specialises in beautiful, detailed, applique quilts using reproduction fabrics and Corliss, the owner, has recently released a new pattern.

The Caswell quilt, pattern designed by Corliss Searcey

Corliss says the following about The Caswell Quilt:

This stunning quilt was inspired by the famous Caswell Carpet which resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  It consists of 30 appliquéd blocks of flowers & leaves, birds & butterflies.  The pattern includes full size blocks and individual colour photos of all blocks.

Threadbear stocks Aurifil threads, so we were very pleased to be asked to pack special thread sets of Cotton Mako’ 50 for this new design.

Corliss selected 2 sets, of 4 colours each, that will allow you to applique all the blocks in this quilt.

With these two Cotton Mako’ 50 thread sets you will all the colours you need to applique the Caswell Quilt

What a great way to get a quick start on your applique!

Go to the Threadbear website to find out how to order a pattern and thread sets, or get more information about their Applique Society meetings.

Creatively Tweaking

I have great admiration for those craftspeople who design items, those who start with a germ of an idea and take it all the way to a completed masterpiece.  I am in awe of the talent of designers whose patterns for quilts and other items I purchase because I fall in love with the design.

“I could never design like that!” I  think.  And yet, even if our creativity doesn’t extend that far, we all possess creative talents that are reflected in our finished projects (and even in the unfinished ones!!)  When we take someone else’s pattern and make a quilt or handcrafted item, we are using our creativity and putting our own personal stamp on it, from the choice of colour scheme, to the materials, threads and  techniques we employ, and the embellishments we add.

I must admit, that while I do not think I could ever design a quilt from scratch, I do like to do a far bit of “creative tweaking” once I have a basic idea to follow.

I also like to “fiddle” with my knitting patterns.  I actually like to buy old patterns, especially vintage ones which you quite often find in dusty corners of op-shops, so that I can use the stitches and design elements on other garments.

Let me share some photos of my latest knitting creative tweaks.

Knitting a long sleeve for my cardigan.

The pattern I started with is designed by Amanda Crawford and was featured on the cover of The Knitter Magazine, Issue 7 (the  The original garment is knitted in cotton, is a jumper, has short sleeves and a scoop neckline.  It is embellished with a knitted and beaded corsage of wisteria and has a ribbon threaded above the bustline.  My version is knitted in 100% wool,  is a vee-neck cardigan and has long sleeves.  I picked up stitches sideways to make the button/buttonhole bands.  I have not added the embellishments.

Sewing on the buttons with matching Aurifil Cotton (50 weight).

When I creatively tweak a pattern, especially one for a garment which actually has to fit someone, it can be quite challenging to ensure I achieve the desired effect and fit.  Sometimes there is a bit of trial and error involved. (Many errors and lots of trials!!)  For example, I am currently making a jumper for my husband using a pattern which I have adapted to get a more modern fit.  I have knitted the back and front shaping 3 times to get it right.  (I hope he appreciates it!)

But back to my cardigan. …and the finished garment looks like this.

My finished cardigan.

So while we may not all be able to design items from scratch, we are all able to creatively tweak and add our own touches to the things we make.

Enjoy your creativity!!

I Love seeing what people are stitching with Aurifil

I love to see the work that other people have been doing with Aurifil threads so, when Vicki from The Pickledish Patch called into pick up some Aurifil stock for her store, I was thrilled to see this beautiful hand embroidery that she  has being doing with Cotton Mako’ 12.

Vicki's embroidery with Cotton Mako' 12 on the Vignette Quilt by Leanne Beasley

It is part of the Vignette Mystery Quilt by Leanne Beasley and, as Vicki wanted to stitch the embroidery with Cotton Mako 12,  she converted the colours on the requirements list into the Mako colours. On her blog Vicki said:

Well…how delightful they are to use. One strand of thread which goes thru so smoothly and no splitting them either. They are kept on a reel and I like that idea too. I love them and am so glad I decided to use them for this stitchery BOM. “

The embroidery looks wonderful so I thought you would like a close up view.  You will be able to follow Vicki’s  progress on her mystery quilt on her blog.

A close up of Vicki's lovely embroidery using Cotton Mako' 12

Vicki’s idea of converting the thread colours into the Cotton Mako’ colour codes is an idea worth noting. 

You don’t have to use a particular thread range just because it is the one on the pattern requirements list. You are allowed to give yourself permission to customise a pattern to your preferred your choice of fabrics and Aurifil threads.

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