having a play..

I spent part of today playing with my solder iron, burning holes and marks into fabric scraps. We’re having an experimental play day on Saturday at Gatton Quilters, so I thought it would be a good idea reacquainting myself with this handy tool.
When working with this iron, some safety precautions are needed: a stand or a terracotta pot with its own drainage hole is good for standing the iron in between uses;I use a sheet of glass as my working space, and an old oven tray to rest it all on. It’s a good idea to use these irons outside or with a respirator mask in case you are sensitive to the fumes.
To work out what you can do with one of these is really a matter of just playing and experimenting. I’ve got lots of scraps of man-made materials as these will melt easily at the touch of the iron.
You can make marks on fabric and fuse some fabrics to felt such as seen here…
make holes of all different shapes and sizes:
here I burned the flower out of this fabric, and then..
fused it to this piece of felt..
I burned along the edge of this piece which gives it a type of beaded edge:
and cut this piece of gauze and fused it to the white felt:
While thinking about what I might ‘play’ with on the weekend, I had a look through my copies of ‘Quilting Arts’ magazines and found an article by Fay Maxwell from the Spring 2005 issue:
It reminded me that I had some painted polyester pieces from another play day- I had experimented with some paints- DynaFlow by Jacquard and Liquitex Ink, to make these pieces:
and thought I could put them to good use here.
I chopped up lots of fabric bits and pieces and placed them on some batting. The article advised to use a painted piece of wool but I didn’t have any of that and didn’t want to stop and paint some and then wait for it to dry.
I then covered that with a piece of the painted polyester..
and did some all-over random stitching to secure it down.
This piece is now ready to ‘attack’ with the soldering iron, melting and burning randomly over the surface, deeper in some parts than others to reveal a – hopefully- lovely colourful unique piece of fabric. I’ll let you know next week how it turns out!

some more Jane

Just a quick post this week- I don’t have a lot of new work to show because I’ve been long-arm quilting for a client the last week or so. Hopefully I can show that here next week.
I do have some more Dear Jane blocks to show you. In case I haven’t mentioned before, these blocks are all taken from the book of the same name by Brenda Manges Papadakis. The author named the blocks herself. The book includes a diagram of each block so you can trace each one, with its parts, and then use whichever method you prefer to construct it. Some blocks can be hand-pieced, some can be foundation-pieced, some have applique and some use reverse-applique. All of these below have used reverse-applique in some way.
E11 Wagon Wheel

B1 Bachelor's Buttons

B1 Bachelor’s Buttons

F11 On Target

F11 On Target

( N.B. these haven’t been trimmed yet, and don’t mind the loose threads!)


If you think block B1 looks a little smaller than the others, then you would be right. It was one of the very first I did, and at that time wasn’t aware of needing to include a seam allowance around the outside edge. I intend to add a narrow border around the couple of blocks that aren’t the right size when I put them all together.
Until next week, happy quilting!

my hardest quilt to make. ever.

Sometimes, working out the best way to quilt a quilt-top is a long process, fraught with indecision, double-guessing and accompanied by lots of sighs. Such was the case when I put this quilt of my own onto the longarm machine last week. This is the medallion quilt that I have mentioned quite a few times over the last year or so, here and here.
I started it in a workshop with Gwen Marston a couple of years ago, and the inspiration is a medallion quilt from her book Liberated Medallion Quilts. I didn’t use any pattern or instructions. It is made from lots of blocks, all made to different sizes and employing a variety of methods. Improv quilting indeed!
Once a large supply of blocks are in hand comes the difficult stage of working out how they can all fit together.
Many a time I was heard to say this is the hardest quilt I’ve ever made! Blocks were put together with strips added in here and there to make up gaps, extra little half-square triangles quickly put together to fill in a space and lots of re-arranging up on the design wall. I used Gwen’s method of ‘liberated quilting’, and made wonky star blocks, lop-sided log cabin blocks and unusual colours together in the hope it would all look okay in the end.
But once the top was all together, silly me thought it was all plain sailing from here. But how do you machine quilt such a top, with irregular seam lines and so many shapes and sizes?
I started with the decision that I didn’t want to do an all-over design or use my favoured method of free-hand quilting because it was so busy anyway and that style of quilting wouldn’t suit it.
I would use the same cream thread all over because otherwise changing threads would be a nightmare, but try to limit its visibility on darker coloured pieces.
So… I’m going to use straight-line quilting wherever possible, although there won’t be a regular 1/4″ around the blocks and some have strips which aren’t a constant width.
It’s in progress at the moment, so excuse the thread-ends in these photos:
Some blocks would be just out-line quilted, on some the quilting would be visible but not so on others, I’ll use in-the-ditch to move from one section to another, and as for the wonky blocks with irregular strip widths and star-points- sigh…..
For the centre square, trying to avoid curvy lines for consistency restricts the options somewhat, so more thinking required here-
This quilt is turning into the hardest one I’ve ever had to quilt.

everything’s green

If you were given a challenge to make a small quilt, no bigger than 14″ square, to the theme of “Green”, what would you do? The art quilt group of Gatton Quilters recently held such a challenge, and some really inventive works were created.
I decided to make a piece from strips of as many green coloured fabrics that I could find in my stash, with the aim to still see a pattern within the arrangement. This is the result:

Karen - Green challenge

Karen – Green challenge

I started by cutting lots of strips of no particular width and then arranged them on a backing. I originally thought of a more random arrangement between the varying hues but after a little experimentation settled with placing bright light greens in a strip across the middle and mainly darks and mid hues working out from that.
Once all the pieces had been auditioned and final placement decided, I put a little drop of glue to hold them in place on a foundation piece.
I then added some wadding and backing before taking it to the machine and quilting parallel lines about 1/4″ apart. I put a facing around the edges instead of binding. I think it even looks a little like a city skyline, which makes me happy as I do have a fondness for cityscapes :)

Here are some other Green challenge quilts by members of the group. Some are little quiltlets like mine and some are blocks that might have others added to them further down the track:

Jan M

Jan M

Lyn L

Lyn L

Meryl-green Meryl


Trisha k- green Trish
Trish K also brought this cushion in that she had recently finished with some lovely embroidery:

… and another thing, just thought I’d show this Clamshell Quilt, first talked about here, which I’ve now finished hand quilting:

Karen- Clamshell quilt

Karen- Clamshell quilt

Linking up here to the Stitched in Color blog which hosted the Clambake quiltalong.

…and last but not least, here is this week’s Dear Jane block- B4 titled ‘Chris’s Soccer Field':

getting the Gammill ready to quilt

I spent some of this past weekend quilting a client’s quilt on my long-arm machine, and had the idea that you might like to see a little more of the machine. I have a Gammill Classic Plus long-arm quilting machine, and while it does look fairly big and intimidating when you first look at it, I’ve come around to thinking it is just like a big sewing machine after all.

Before I start every new quilt on it, there are some little jobs to do first. I always give it a good wipe-down to clear any dust – and not just because I’m not a great housekeeper!- but because the smooth movement of the machine requires dust-free tracks.
I use an old pastry brush to dust along the tracks on the machine bed, as well as it’s own wheels. It’s best to get rid of any fluff or threads that might prevent the machine from moving in any direction that you’ll need while quilting.
It then has to be oiled, so I use the provided oil to put a drop in all the recommended spots, including the bobbin race.
I also change the needle after every big quilt or maybe two little quilts, because that needle does a lot of work.
I have to check whether I have any loaded bobbins with the correct thread, and if not put an empty bobbin on the winder and thread it up.
The needle thread also has to be threaded on the other side- I used to take a long time to thread the machine, checking the instructions at each step, but it’s like second nature now.
If I haven’t yet done so, I now load the quilt on the machine, which is done in order of the top first, then the backing and the batting. This can also take awhile to make sure they are loaded straight and firm.
Once that it is done, I usually do a little test run on some scrap that I pin to the side. This lets me check that the tension is correct and the stitches are being made correctly in the quilt- all threads work uniquely. Plus this is when I might test out a design- I do a lot of free-motion work so its good to test out a design I might have just practised with pen and paper. I try to avoid marking a quilt where possible.
This is a little sneak peek of the quilt I loaded on the weekend- it will have an all-over freehand design. Hope you are having fun with whatever stage of a quilt you are at!
and not to forget my Dear Jane block: this is one of the very first I made, using the reverse-applique method. This is B1 “Bachelor Buttons”.

the little jobs- sewing a quilt sleeve

Catching up on those last little finishing jobs that come with quilts- that sometimes get put off for awhile, or even left by the wayside!
I’ve been finishing some binding, adding some sleeves on to the back of quilts, as well as the labels for the back.
This is the way I add a sleeve- it may not be the correct way? or may not be the way that you do it? Let me know if you think I can improve on what I’m doing!
I first cut the strip for the sleeve- about 3″ less than the width of the quilt, and about 4″ deep. Then I machine-sew a little turned edge all around, and press the strip with a tuck of about 1 – 1.5″ all along the length.
sleeve1 This tuck gives it some room for when you put the rod or dowell in the back to hang it. I then hand-sew it down along the two long edges. The turned edge enables me to do a slip stitch so the stitches aren’t as obvious, and make it quicker than just turning th eedge over as you go.
And for the labels- I recently came across a panel of labels that you can cut off individual labels and use, like these: (this one’s not sewn down yet)
I thought they were a great idea, because sometimes I can’t find anything suitable to use for the label.
This one I incorporated into the faced-back when sewing the seams, and then hand-quilted over the top- which is still to be finished!
And here is this week’s Dear Jane block:

I4 - Stability

I4 – Stability

Have a great week!

friendly sewing

The photos below are of recently finished projects of the members of my quilting group, Gatton Quilters. We recently had our meeting, the first of the year, so everyone had lots of Show and Tell! We are currently working on a number of Challenges, which will all contribute towards our Exhibition we will be holding in July.
On the left is Helen’s response to the Recycled theme: Starry Nights utilising sari pieces. The work on the right is Lyn’s response to the theme of Recycled: she has depicted the journey from green leaves to compost.

L: Helen   R: Lyn- Nature's Recycling Plant

L: Helen R: Lyn- Nature’s Recycling Plant

The other theme we are working toward is Seasons. Helen’s work on the right is Annabelle’s Seasons Restaurant. Shirley’s work shows all four seasons together in the one piece.
L: Shirley   R: Helen-

L: Shirley R: Helen-

We also had both Trisha and Val showing their lovely, all hand appliqued tops called “Love Entwined”.




In a workshop last year we all learnt about sashiko stitching, and Marilyn has really taken off with it, completing some extra lovely projects.
I was also recently sewing with a group of friends on a leisurely Sunday afternoon. We had machine sewing and hand sewing going on, and look at this most cutest teapot for our afternoon tea!
afternoon sewing
That’s the great thing about quilting and sewing- it’s nice to get together and catch up while also making some headway in a current project. It’s all good!
Oh, and here is this week’s Dear Jane block: A12 Framed Fancy.
A12  Framed Fancy

A12 Framed Fancy

shells, dear

The little clamshell quilt I mentioned back here is now finished.
It was fun making this, and by using this method of raw-edged circles overlapping each other, really quick too.
I used the Sizzix die-cutting machine to cut out perfect circles all at 4″ wide. By not repeating any fabric, it was another way to use up some fabrics sitting in my stash. All the circles were placed with a couple of dots of glue then machine sewn a row at a time.
I decided to sew really closely to the edge of each circle, and used a light grey Invisifil thread which blended into all the colours. Choosing that thread colour was probably the hardest part of the whole thing! because I didn’t want to be changing threads all the time I wanted to use one that would fit in with all the colours of the circles. I even used up some more fabric left over from a past project to make the backing.
clamshells2 Very bright, hmmm?
I decided not to bind it and instead stitched the top and backing right-sides together all the way round leaving a little gap to turn it through, and then just closed up that gap with some hand-stitches. I also put some little loops in to use for hanging.
It was at this stage that I considered leaving it as it was, wondering if I could get away with not quilting it at all. After all, it’s only smallish??…. But no, it didn’t look right. It needed something to highlight the shell shapes, so I’m going to hand-quilt with big stitches along the tops of each curve, across in rows. I’ll use a crimson-coloured 12wt thread called Spagetti by Wonderfil.
Other things I’ve been up to: I thought I would get caught up with photos of the quilts I’ve made over the last year or two and put them in my album.
Do you do that too? I think it’s good to have a record of them, even if for no other reason than to look through them every now and then. It seems a lot when they are all together.

I haven’t mentioned about this next quilt before on here, but it is one I have been making, or not, for some years. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of the Dear Jane quilt, made by hundreds of people all over the world. I started it with a couple of lessons and have been making a block every now and then. But it was also a project that got put on the back burner when I was trying to finish last year’s Lollipop Trees quilt. So I thought I would start to show a block every week on here (that I’ve already completed), as a motivation to keep going with it! I am making it in batiks, which are more my style than the traditional reproduction fabrics most often used.
This block is E8- Mama’s Maze.

E8 Mama's Maze

E8 Mama’s Maze

Hope you have a good week quilting!

9-patch improv

Improvisation in quilt-making is something I love to play with- the ultimate ‘What If?” So when I saw a call for quilters to try a new method and make a quilt that could possibly be shown in a to-be-published book, I thought why not?!
The book, which comes out in March, is called the Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, by Sherri Lynn Wood.
This is the quilt I made:
Sherri provided us with a ‘score’ that guided us in making the quilt. There were no specific patterns to follow; the score provided a framework which we then interpreted in our own way. There were about ten different scores and a lot of quilters working with each one, from which Sherri would choose a selection to feature in her book. While my quilt didn’t get included in the book, it was still a fun process to go through.
The score I received was ‘Flying Geese’. I can’t give the details of how the score worked, but I can show a few photos of what I did. I decided to put my own take on it by limiting myself to striped fabrics and my hand-dyed fabrics that I’ve made over the years. I made lots of flying geese and it was fun to see how some of the colour combinations I put together looked really good…
I didn’t have any preconceived idea of what the finished quilt would look like but went along making decisions as I went.
I auditioned lots of different border fabrics with the original idea to use white or some other light colour, because that seems to be the common colour with many modern quilts. However, the best effect was achieved with black so the bright colours could pop against it.
And for some reason, when putting it all together, the smaller blocks wanted to arrange themselves into a rough grouping that resembled a 9-patch, hence the name Flying 9 patch.
I free-hand quilted it myself on my long-arm, using a bright variegated thread and lots of lines and angles, and bound it using a fused machine binding.
So even though, my quilt didn’t make the cut- I’m not sure whether those quilts will be mentioned at all in the book- I guess I will have to get the book when it’s published and have a look!
Linking up here to Nina-Marie’s Off-The-Wall-Friday!

circles and clambakes

A quilt pattern that I have seen around in recent times is using the clamshell shape. Once again, it is also a design that has a traditional background but when used with fresh new fabrics, or – my favourite- lots of scraps, it produces a lovely colourful quilt. I recently saw a quick and easy version of a clamshell quilt on the Stitched in Color blog and thought it was right up my alley!
It takes lots of circles sewn in overlapping rows, machine-sewn with raw edges. It looks quick and easy so I thought I would have a go at it. I want to use up lots of fabrics from my stash, so I have been trying to make some scrappy quilts lately to use as much as I can. You might remember my spiderweb quilt, which used strips of varying widths all sewn together:
and I have almost finished a scrappy Round-the-world quilt which I’ll show on here soon.
For this clamshell quilt I need to cut lots of circles. And it just so happens I have a new toy with which to cut them with!! This is my new Sizzix Big Shot:
I had always resisted these fabric-cutting machines in the past but had recently changed my mind when I realised they would be ideal for cutting accurate curved shapes, like circles, petals, leaves etc. When I saw this one on sale at Lincraft last month I thought why not?!
I have had to buy the cutting dies separately so have at the moment just bought circles in three sizes and a half-square triangle die. I tried to get a clamshell-shape but still trying to source that online, plus some other shapes.
It cuts circles so quickly and perfectly. You just layer the fabric, up to 6 layers at once, on the die between the cutting pads and wind it through. I wish I had it when doing the Lollipop Trees quilt last year! It can also cut paper and card and be used for embossing.
Lots of playing ahead! Have a good week :)