how to make a Christmas gift

A recipe for a handmade book-mark:

Christmas Book-mark:   Karen Mundt

Christmas Book-mark: Karen Mundt

1. Take a piece of hand-painted and stencilled cloth and some sari ribbon of contrasting colours:
2. Lay out the sari ribbon silk strips and sew them down onto the painted cloth- I used a large zig-zag stitch in black thread.
Then cut across that piece into short strips of varying widths – no ruler needed! Rearrange those short strips- I rearranged so that there would be red pieces of the ribbon popping up in random locations, and then sew them back together.
3. The piece of re-constructed cloth I had at this stage was about 6″ wide. I then cross-cut that (you know I like to cut things up!) into the pieces that would become the book-mark- 6″ long and about 2.5″ wide. You can make them any size you want by sewing extra strips together or cutting wider or narrower….
4. I tore up a page from an old book and together with a scrap of fabric attached them onto the top. I used little pieces of text fabric- any words or sayings to do with books or quilts, used black thread and left the thread ends showing on top.
5. I then ironed onto the back of each of them some thin pellon- but in retrospect it would have been easier to iron that on to the back of the larger piece before cutting them up in Step 3 above :)
6. I used a piece of my hand-dyed cloth (dyed in a workshop quite a few years ago) as the backing- layered that and the top piece, wrong sides together, and sewed around the raw edges. I inserted a piece of ribbon or string as the loop for each one- leaving the cut edges out. Use whatever you have at hand, and they don’t all have to be the same. Sew around the edges at least twice free-style so the stitching looks uneven and ‘rustic’.
Great to use for Christmas gifts!

how to… add a mitred border

When I made my little quilt ‘Blue Birds’ last month, I decided to add a mitred border on it.

Blue Birds- Karen Mundt

Blue Birds- Karen Mundt

Here’s how I went about it- I’m sure there are lots of different ways to do it and this is probably a mix of all of them! First, cut four strips the width of the required border plus 1/2″ for seam allowances, and in the length of each side plus at least 4″. So if the quilt is 10″ wide and 14″ long, I would cut two lengths 14″ long and two lengths at 18″long.
Sew each length to each side and top and bottom, stopping the stitching 1/4″ from the end each time. Mark the stopping point with a pencil before you stitch- it needs to be accurate. There will be about 2″ of the strip hanging off each end. Press it open.
With the top facing up, arrange it so one strip is laying straight with its end extending out to the side, and then fold the other strip so that it makes a 45* angle. I used a pin in the corner to just keep it still on my padded surface while folding it. side
Use a ruler with a 45*angle marked on it to line it up with the folded corner and make sure you have the fold exact. Press.
Put a piece of tape over the fold- this is to keep it in place while you turn the quilt over.
When it’s turned over to the other side and the two strips are lined up parallel together, you will easily see the crease that was pressed into it.
Sew from the corner point (where the previous lines of stitching ended) straight out along that crease to the edge. Lining up the two strips like this also means that there will be a tiny gap along the crease in the tape on the other side, so when sewing along this diagonal line your needle won’t sew through the tape. If it does, you can easily remove it.
Turn the quilt over and press again- voila! a perfectly-sewn mitred corner! You can then trim the seam.


how to… make a pineapple quilt block

Do you ever get an idea in your mind that you can’t get rid of- until you actually do something about it? I’ve been thinking about pineapple quilts lately. There seems to be a few on websites and Instagram and I’ve becme curious. I think they appeal to me because they are a block for a pieced quilt, as against an applique quilt. And my over-all favourite type of quilt is one with lots of pieces which allow you to play with different fabrics and placements and variations.
So today I had to scratch that itch and try one out. This is my finished block:

LittleBirdie- pineapple block

LittleBirdie- pineapple block

As you can see, I chose to use some of my made-up fabric that I’ve put together from scraps, and contrast that with a texty-type cream fabric. This fabric actually has a print resembling vintage dress patterns all over it, with little bits of green here and there.
I cut strips out of both to use with a paper foundation. I obtained the foundation paper from the Generations Quilt Patterns site, where you can print off either 6″ or 8″ blocks. The instructions are also there for how to make the block, as well as cutting instructions for the strips you need.
I didn’t actually follow those exactly, but instead used another method of paper-foundation piecing that I prefer. You first cut the middle square and a strip to add to that to start the first round. You then use a small card to help you fold the foundation paper back over against the straight edge of the card.
Take a ‘Add a quarter Inch’ ruler that has a little ridge along it at the 1/4″ mark and hold it against the folded fabric and card. It snuggles in nicely against the card. You can then cut the fabric pieces underneath with a quarter-inch seam allowance.
When you go to add the next strip, you just have to line the edge of that strip against the cut edge of the partial block and flip it over and sew on the marked line.
Cut off the tail of the strip and use for the next piece. This also avoids having to cut exact lengths of the strips.
You then just go around the block in number order, sewing exactly on the lines of each piece. Use a smaller stitch length, e.g. 1.6, so it makes it easier to peel the paper away later.
This is what the back of the block looks like.
I also chose to only put the coloured pieces at diagonal corners. Usually, the coloured piece would alternate with the cream strips, and therefore there would be colour pieces going out to each corner like in a cross, but I had seen a picture somewhere with a striking pattern created when all the blocks are joined and just that diagonal colour stripe going through the quilt top.
LittleBirdie- pineapple block

LittleBirdie- pineapple block

Having said that though, I’m not sure if it was the right decision? or even if my choice of fabrics was the best? I like the finished block but you need to have a lot of blocks to put together so you can play around with the secondary patterns you might create. And, making this one block took me the better part of today! So the jury is still out on what I’ll do next with this- satisfied the itch though, for a little while :)

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!

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!

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!

how to… sew at the cricket

It is an acquired skill to be able to sew with only your own lap to serve as a table and sewing basket all-in-one. Watching junior cricket means I usually take along some sewing to while away the time, to take a stich here and there when youngest son is not actually bowling or batting which would require more attention.. I’m sure a lot of you have been in the same place at one time or another, whether it be cricket, or soccer, or whatever.
And so I found myself today, sitting in a a folding chair, placed strategically in the shade, watching Under-16 cricket, as you do on a Sunday afternoon.
I took along more of the little border blocks that I am STILL working on for the Lollipop trees quilt. The sun was shining but the wind was also blowing, so a fine sense of control was needed.
My portable sewing bag was on the ground next to the chair; my little zippered pouch with thread and scissors and needles open for easy access. I have all the little applique pieces already prepared in a plastic bag along with the background blocks. These plus the piece I’m working on sit in my lap, and hopefully I don’t drop any pieces while ‘auditioning’ each piece for a block.
I use a silk thread for these applique blocks, which gives a good finish because the thread just ‘sinks’ into the fabric making it almost impossible to see in the finished piece. However silk thread is also so fine that the breeze can grab hold and blow it around. I’ve perfected the art of cutting off a length from the reel, holding the reel in my left hand pulling the thread out by the right length, pinching it with two fingers from the left hand with the reel cupped in the palm then snipping with the scissors held in the right hand, never letting go of any piece lest the wind catch it and fly it away.
The reel gets dropped down in the bag to my left on the ground, still holding on to the length of thread, and now comes the delicate operation of threading the fine thread into the needle with a small eye.
This also has to be done in the wind, and in the shade while wearing sunglasses. Is it any wonder I may swear under my breath a little if the needle becomes unthread while sewing, which does happen quite often with silk thread if one’s hands get tangled in the thread when pulling it through the fabric, with the piece threatening to fly away at any minute with the next gust of wind.
I take a stitch or two, in between each ball bowled or each stroke of the bat, putting down the piece completely when a certain bowler comes to the crease. I don’t want to miss that bowl-and-catch.
I get maybe one block done in the afternoon- I guess that’s one more block to add to the growing pile. I am moving forward with this quilt, block by block.

how to do invisible machine applique

The Lollipop Trees quilt has a lot of applique to do- a LOT of applique. In the early days I thought I might give a try to machine applique, so I started one of the blocks using a method I distilled from lots of reading in books and the ‘net. I didn’t actually end up using it on many blocks- mainly because I found it more convenient to hand sew them all and be able to take them with me or do in front of the television at night etc., like this one :
However, machine applique was an effective method so I thought I would show it here and see what you think. This is a close-up:
It is just about ‘invisible’ isn’t it?!
So anyway, this is how I did it. I used a product called Floriani Stitch’n Wash Fusible. As its name suggests, it can be fused, stitched through and then will wash out later so it can be left in. You can cut it out in the shapes of the pieces that you need and then iron it to the back side of the fabric. Cut out the pieces leaving a quarter inch allowance, just like you might do using freezer paper.
You then turn over the edges to the wrong side, using little tiny dots of fabric glue to keep them in place- I used Roxanne’s Baste-It glue because it has a long thin nozzle to enable little micro-dots, but any similar glue will do. Most of themn also wash out in water. Then give a quick press to the edges.
You place the applique piece on the block background using a couple of dots of glue to keep it in place. Then go to your sewing machine.
This is where some playing and experimenting might come in, as all machines are different. I worked out the ideal settings for me (using a Bernina 440QE) as these: I used Stitch #3, but you might like one of the other stitches or a zig zag better…
and changed the stitch length to .9 and the width as .7
I used a #10 microtex needle and Wonder Invisible thread in both the top and the bottom threads. Not many of the clear threads behave when used in the bobbin but I found this one really good. I also put the tension at 3.
You sew along the edge of the piece, with the straight part of the stitch right along the edge, and the little side ‘zag’ just comes across onto the applique. You don’t have to be too fussy about that though! I went crooked many a time, but the invisible thread hides it all.
It’s a method that makes the pieces have a nice crisp edge. You may want to just go slowly to begin with, and you do have to work out how to pivot at corners or going around curves.
However, I wasn’t happy with the edges of the circles, so I used a hybrid method for them. I prepared them like I did for the hand-sewn blocks, see here, using circular shapes to cut the piece out, put a gathering thread around it and pull up tight. Using those plastic shapes meant there was something to pull the fabric against. I just pressed them with a little spray starch and the edges stayed crisp enough to then machine sew them down invisibly.
Voila: a machine-sewn applique block. :)

how to do circles – circles are different..

In my last post I talked about the method I use for applique. I use that method for most shapes but when doing circles, I use another method to get the seam allowance turned under without any of those little pleats or tucks around the edges. And these lollipop trees have lots of circles!
First of all, you need a plastic circle shape. I either make my own by cutting out template plastic. Or even better, is to use little plastic shapes that are made specially for this purpose- they come in sets of varying sizes and are usually found in your local quilt shop. They are also heat-proof, which the template plastic isn’t.
I’ve tried two different methods- one using alfoil, which I’ve seen a few well-known quilters use, as well as the more traditional method with a gathering thread. Personally, I think the gathering thread actually gets smoother edges and is less likely to have little puckers than the alfoil. Try it yourself and see what you think.
First of all, place the shape on the wrong side of the fabric, trace around the plastic and then cut a circle with about a 1/4″ allowance. This doesn’t have to be exact- it just gets turned under anyway.
Alfoil method: take a square piece of alfoil, layer the fabric, right side down and then the circle shape.
Press the alfoil around, pinching the alfoil tightly around the edges and smoothing to avoid little pleats at the edge.
After you have it as smooth as possible, just scrunch the alfoil together at its opening and then press with a hot iron on both sides.
Put it aside to cool down a little. If using a plastic shape, don’t press for too long or it will melt!
When cool, take the alfoil off, remove the plastic shape and you have a fabric circle with its edges turned under, ready to applique.

Gathering thread method: after cutting out the fabric circle, run a line of large stitches around the edge and leave the ends with a long tail- don’t backstitch at the start or end.
Place the plastic shape in the middle of the circle, and pull the ends of the thread so it gathers the fabric around the circle. It will naturally pull the fabric in tight without any pleats along the edge- I find this more successful than when using the alfoil.
Press the fabric circle with the iron, just around the edges. You could also use starch if you want, to give a bit more crispness on the edge.
When you are ready to applique, just remove the plastic shape and tuck the loose thread ends under. You don’t remove the gathering thread. It can just stay there because it won’t be seen.