Friday, September 25, 2015


Our St Mark's Quilters haven't been twiddling their thumbs between monthly workshops. Look at this lovely pile of finished quilts!

Margaret made this sweet Blanket of Love with a cute centre block of Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter Rabbit gathered round Mother Rabbit. 

Di B made this one in her favourite colour.

"The S Team" (Sophie and Susan) quilted this panel of owls to make a bright and beautiful kindy quilt.

They also finished off this story book panel, adding jazzy borders to make it even more eye-catching.

Susie was very clever with her free motion quilting and created a gentle 'breeze' wafting those white fluffy clouds on her Blanket of Love.

Another pretty pink confection from Perdita...

...and another, just as pretty and even paler and more delicate.

I love the way Di C has used multiple fabrics in pale lemon to add a little sunshine to this quilt.

Gillian took on the challenge of finding a way to use a fairly uninspiring piece of donated bird fabric. Wow! Look at the result! 

By taking her cue from the bright colours in the birds themselves - gold, orange, emerald, scarlet and cobalt - she's made a stunning kindy quilt.

As usual, the hall hummed with the sound of sewing machines, chatter and laughter as fabrics were transformed, in the hands of our skilful quilt makers, into comforting quilts for grieving parents, tiny bubs, or preschoolers.

Di C, always so methodical, pinned and labelled her blocks.

Wow! A little preparation saved any later unpicking (aka frog-stitching). 
She didn't have to "Rippit" "Rippit"   :-)

Liz was a careful block labeller too.

Sue W's latest mini is looking out of this world.

And Gail was playing with pandas.

Gillian did some heavy lifting and created a quilt that's going to be a favourite with a little truck-lover at The Marcia kindy.

We haven't made these for a little while, so Sue M decided to stitch up a cheery humidicrib cover for the Newborn Intensive Care Nursery at RPA. 
Can you imagine what a difference it makes for families sitting beside a seriously ill bub to see bright, pretty colours like this amid all the medical machinery.

I'm loving the happy look of that polka dot binding Susie was about to apply.

With such perfect springtime weather I thought I'd take a group photo. 
At least, it seemed like a good idea at the time. 

Unfortunately the sunshine that was so welcome was just too bright for that perfect shot.
Still,  there's no mistaking the smiles on the faces of our wonderful St Mark's Quilters

But the brightest spot of the day was when we celebrated Di B's 60th birthday!

It was actually the launch of the two week "Festival of Di", the first of many birthday celebrations being held by her friends and family for our generous, warmhearted and talented co-leader.

Happy birthday from all of us, Di B, and may there be many more!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tips for My Small World Quilt {Part 2 - The Half Dresden, Hexie Hillock and New York Beauty Arc}

Ah, Part 5, the favourite section of My Small World quilt, how do I love you? 

Let me count the ways...

I love you for your Rainbow, half Dresden, New York Beauty arc and hexie hillock <3

And they are so simple when you know a few secrets!

Remember, I'm no expert. These are just a few techniques that have worked for me. I've learnt from other quilters over the years and just enjoy passing on their advice!

1. Half Dresden 

 This method gives a nice folded under edge to your Dresden blades, all ready for stress-free hand appliqué. 

First I made my own plastic template for the blades by tracing off the printed template (BC), but extending the sides upward and squaring off the top edge so it was no longer pointed, but wedge shaped.

I added a 1/4 inch seam allowance all round when I cut out my piece of fabric for my blade.

Then I folded my blade in half, and machined across the top with a 1/4 inch seam.

Using a reasonably pointy tool, I turned the blade right side out and pressed with the seam lined up down the centre. I used an oven thermometer for this because it wasn't so sharp that I might accidentally push a hole in my fabric, but a crochet hook would work well.

Once I had the required number of blades I machined them together, again with 1/4 inch seams,  machining from the bottom up to the top of each one, machining beyond the end, then reversing and stitching a short way back so that I finished up about half an inch down from the top edge of my seam. 

This meant I could snip off my threads well away from the edge of my Dresden arc, giving it a nice neat finish. 

I appliquéd my semi-circle of "garden" to the half-Dresden arc using Floriani Stitch and Wash Fusible Water Soluble Tearaway Stabiliser

Originally developed for machine embroidery, appliqué lovers have taken to it for appliqué because you simply iron your shape to the wrong side of your fabric, and lightly glue under the edges with a Sewline glue pen (or similar). Voila! It's ready to appliqué, and you never have to remove the Floriani because it just dissolves with washing. Not that you need hurry to do that because it doesn't feel unpleasant in your finished quilt.
Floriani make several similar-sounding stabilisers, so take care to remember the right one.

I used basically the same Dresden technique to make my little appliqué sun, but my tiny blade template was from the Westwood Acres Mini Dresden pattern and I used a lid to cut my circle.

2. The Hexie Hillock*

There are plenty of ways to obtain the papers for English Paper Piecing these tiny hexagons. 
The easiest way is to design your own 1/2 inch hexagons using a site such as Incomptech, then download and print them onto light card.

To my mind the challenge of this little element of My Small World lies in trimming back the hand stitched hexes from this shape...

... to this ...

... without snipping those threads and potentially unravelling your hand stitching - Yikes!

Once again I turned to my roll of Floriani Stitch and Wash Fusible Water Soluble Tearaway Stabiliser, traced off the semi-circle shape from the printed template and fused (ironed) it to the back of my hexagon work.

Then I used a short stitch to machine around the Floriani, keeping close to the edge.

With the unravelling thus prevented, I could safely cut through the hand stitching as I trimmed the hexes back, leaving approximately 1/4 inch.

Then I folded this over, taking care to bring the line of machine stitching to the back where it was hidden and could not be seen on the edge, and my hexie hillock was now ready to appliqué!

*Well, it looks like a little hill to me :-)

3. The New York Beauty Arc

I thought I'd end this post with a block that looks complicated, but is very easily made using foundation paper piecing. 

If creating from scratch is important to you, you can spend a very long time creating your own foundation papers from the pattern diagrams in Quiltmania. 

Or you can English Paper Piece all those tiny, spiky slivers. On her latest blog post clever Danielle of Mes Petits Elephants has some fabulous instructions on how to do this.

Or you can do what I did, and pop over here to Sarah's blog where she has a simpler solution!

Phew, I think that's probably quite enough information for one post! 

So next time, in my final post of Tips for My Small World Quilt, I'll cover construction of the rainbow, clam shells, orange peel blocks and pinwheels.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tips for My Small World Quilt {Part 1 - Fabrics, foundations, and all that sky}

Here it is, my version of Jen Kingwell's My Small World Quilt, finally finished, except for the quilting, after six weeks of rummaging through scraps, mess, fussy cutting, mess, picking threads off every outfit I've worn, ... and did I mention the mess?

My finished My Small World Quilt
From the moment I first set eyes on this quilt in the Spring 2015 edition of Quiltmania I knew it was bad news (but in the nicest possible way!).

Jen Kingwell's My Small World Quilt in the Spring 2015 edition of Quiltmania 
Like the Lorelei, this fabulous quilt, with its thousands of tiny pieces, called to me right from the start, but I knew I had no room in my life for a new project. 

With quilters the world over scrambling to secure their copy of Quiltmania, I couldn't believe my luck when I found a copy in my local newsagent (but then I am the only quilter in the village!) and I had to have it. I quietly congratulated myself on the wisdom of my purchase, "just in case I might want to make it at some time in the distant future," I told myself.

Then this happened.

I blame all the quilters posting dazzling photos of their quilts on Instagram. Inspiration overload! In a weak moment I succumbed, and in no time at all I had completed Part 1.

... and Part 2!

Virtual champagne glass in hand, I joined the worldwide My Small World Quiltalong party on Instagram (#mysmallworldqal) steered by  

and ably supported by  

Each of these experienced quilt makers has offered really useful information on their blog about how to complete the various sections of this quilt, and most importantly the errata, and if you're reading this in preparation for attempting wonderful quilt you should read what they've written. 

I've found it immensely helpful.

At the risk of possibly repeating some of their advice, I thought I'd also share with you some of the lessons I've personally learnt along the way. 

1. It's not as simple as it "seams"
This is not a quilt for beginners. The pattern has very few instructions beyond the printed templates and there is a huge amount of assumed knowledge.

A short stitch length, and pressing your seams open, instead of to one side, is helpful. 
An accurate scant 1/4 inch seam is essential, with so many seams involved. I used my Westalee Scant 1/4" Seam Gauge to try to ensure I had a consistent seam measurement each time I turned on my machine. With so many seams the opportunity for distorting the dimensions is hugely increased.

Press seams open.
2. The importance of a good foundation
One of our early arrivals at the party was foundation piecing whizz, Sarah of Sew What Sherlock, who realised pretty quickly that many of the blocks could be created much more easily using foundation paper piecing rather than piecing fabric shapes cut from the templates printed in Quiltmania.
If you contact Sarah through the link above, ask very nicely and supply her with a "ransom photo" (you'll understand when you read her blog) she'll email you a PDF of foundation paper patterns which will make your job considerably less stressful.

3. Choosing fabrics
Don't over-think these, it is a scrap quilt after all. 
Search Instagram (#mysmallworldqal) and you'll be surprised at all the different colour schemes. Fabulous inspiration!
I made my quilt entirely from my scrap bin, and for once I was glad to be a hoarder. 

Since my quilt is for a little person I decided to include lots of "I spy" elements for little eyes to search out. These include the school bus, sailing boat, clown, puppy, bees, daisies, stars and little boy that you can see in this photo.

The important thing to remember when selecting fabrics is balance.

It doesn't have to be all matchy-matchy, but if you use a scrap of fabric on the right hand side of your quilt it will look balanced if you also use a tiny piece in one or two other areas. I think, in the end, I had a palette of around 40 to 50 fabrics of all different sizes, and I kept to these, with a few exceptions, trying to evenly distribute them across the quilt.

Your quilt will also look better if you generally keep a balance of dark, medium and light hues throughout the pattern. I've found the best way to keep track of this is to periodically take a monochrome photo of my quilt, so I just see the hues and I'm not distracted by the colours.

 And don't think that, just because you're making a 33" x 52" quilt using (much) more than a thousand pieces of fabric, you're going to make more than the slightest dent in the level of your scrap bin. 

It doesn't work that way. 
Don't ask me why. 
It's just the Law of Scraps!

4.The sky's the limit!

Here's Jen Kingwell's original My Small World Quilt, photographed from the back cover of Quiltmania. She's used a low volume palette of beiges and creams, but you don't have to stay with this colour scheme.

Use your imagination! You're going to spend a great deal of time piecing that sky together so you might as well make it interesting. 
On Instagram I've seen dark night skies, blue skies, bright sunshiny yellow skies and more. 

I chose to create a sky with graduated shades of blue, yellow and white. Each of those squares finishes at 1 inch so you can really have fun "painting" your sky with your fabrics.

I  didn't embroider the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Leaning Tower of Pisa and Eiffel Tower patterns designed by Jen to 'float' in the sky, delightful as they are. Here's an opportunity to add your individual touches. I've seen appliquéd birds and hot air balloons, as well as embroidered scenes from a quilter's own travels.

Since I already had these fairytale castle towers in my stash I pieced them into my sky, along with some fat little bumble bees, and finally added a big golden sun with Dresden rays. 

I hope this has given you lots of ideas to get those creative juices flowing!
Next time I'll show you how I worked the Dresden appliqué, as well as some of the other elements of My Small World.