31 March 2009

Slow burning blocks

Look at this gorgeousness! Trish from my Slow Burners class sent these photos of two of her Antique Rose Star blocks for me (and you) to enjoy. Remember that this block uses a single template for each shape? Look at how beautifully Trish has fussy-cut her pieces. The centre pieces make great secondary patterns and the light/dark contrast between Trish's delicate colours shows the blocks at their best And look at those stunning stripes!

You can buy the template or join the class by emailing Material Obsession.

29 March 2009

More Grandma's Star blocks

Aren't they delicious? Easy to hand piece because all the sewing is along straight lines - no curves to complicate things. Perfect for fussy cutting in the case of interestingly-patterned fabrics.
I'm becoming quite addicted to these blocks because making them in cool colours is very relaxing. That's just as well, because my footy team had a disappointing (read: pathetic) start to the season last night when they lost the first game by 15 points. We keep the faith that next week will be better.

28 March 2009

Looking for a useful tattoo?

I came across this fun, but very useful, tattoo idea while I was reading a blog recommended in a comment by WJCSydney. If I should ever want a tattoo (which is highly unlikely), just think how handy this one would be for all my crafty needs!

27 March 2009

Take a deep breath

This is what I have been telling myself all afternoon. I'm so excited - take a deep breath, and repeat. Here's the reason: in August, I will be lucky enough to go to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham! And to a variety of places in London to see textile collections, to the American Museum in Bath, to the Quilt Museum and Gallery (owned and managed by The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles), ending up in Edinburgh. And there's more. Now you can see why I need to take deep breaths!

My friend Deborah, publisher of Down Under Quilts magazine, is organising the tour and she will be coming along too - we will have such fun together. As soon as I have full details, I'll let you know because you might want to come too! That would be even more fun, wouldn't it?

25 March 2009

This is a big week

because it is the start of the AFL football season! My team, the Sydney Swans, plays its first game next Saturday night in Melbourne. That means I'll be watching it here in Sydney on the television. For the next six months, I'll be having my weekly fix of footy and I am rearing to go!

Last year, I made this journal quilt to illustrate a year in my life.

You can see it is divided into three sections. The top and bottom sections are rows of placid blue fabrics, stitched in horizontal lines. These represent the first and last three months of the year - the non-footy season, when life is generally more calm for me. The centre section of red-and-white strips (the colours of my team) is quilted in huge zigzags, to represent the highs and lows of the footy season.
I can't stress how cathartic it is to scream my head off at the footy. I'm counting the days...

24 March 2009

New magazine inspiration

Sometimes I need to thoroughly examine a new magazine before deciding to purchase it. Today was not such an instance. As soon as I saw the stunning cover of a brand new magazine, Australian Aboriginal Art, I picked it up, flicked through it and bought it immediately.

It is a substantial magazine (nearly 200 pages), printed on quality paper. The images are stunning and the colour is brilliant. I haven't managed to read the articles yet - I can't stop gazing at the wonderful photographs. This magazine is truly a fantastic sourcebook of inspiration and it will take me a lengthy time to absorb all that it contains. What a Tuesday treat.

22 March 2009

Woven brooch tutorial

Last year, I posted about some woven brooches I had made. Pamela read these posts recently and asked for a tutorial on how I made them. I don't have step-by-step photos to illustrate the process, but I do have some instructions I wrote for a workshop in this technique in 2005.
It's a pretty simple process and could be applied to add texture to textile art and ATCs. Hope you enjoy trying it!

Finished brooches

This small brooch is made by weaving threads with interesting textures through warp threads stitched on fabric. It is a simple technique, but can be used to make stunning brooches, which are truly unique.

These notes are for a brooch that will be approximately 5cm square.

1. You will need a template – rigid cardboard is good. Draw a 5cm square on the cardboard and cut it out.

2. Cut a square of fabric approximately 16cm. The fabric will be trimmed back after the stitching and weaving is completed. I used dark blue taffeta for all my brooches. You need to be aware that the sides of the fabric will be seen, so choose a colour that works with your threads.

3. In the centre of the fabric, trace around the template with a pencil.

4. Draw lines to divide the square into three sections.

5. Put the fabric into a 10cm embroidery hoop.

6. Use Perle thread (about 180cm long) to stitch warp threads in each section. Try to make the direction different in each section.

7. Choose three different decorative threads, each about 75cm long. You can use any decorative yarns as well. Variegated and fuzzy yarns work well; lumpy ones do not.

8. Weave one section at a time. Use a tapestry needle to weave the threads through the warp threads. Once you reach the end of a row, weave the thread around the end warp thread to start a new row.

9. While still in the hoop, stitch beads on the brooch, if desired.

10. Remove the fabric from the hoop and place it over the cardboard template. You will be folding the fabric to the back and stitching it, so trim the fabric neatly to fit.

11. Stitch the fabric over the template. You can glue a small piece of leather to the back of the brooch if you want to cover the seams.

12. Stitch or glue the brooch pin to the back of the brooch.

13. Wear your brooch with pleasure!

21 March 2009

Quilter's Home

I have to say upfront that the writing style of the articles in this magazine irritates me immensely. Every time. A lot of the content doesn't interest me either, but I continue to read each issue because once I get past the folksy, 'cool dude' language, there is often something of interest.

One type of article I enjoy is about quilters and their sewing rooms. In this issue, we visit Alex Anderson's home and I was able to be a voyeur as I enjoyed the photos of her home space and read why she loved her home. My inner snoop was satisfied.

There is also an article about 'Shocking quilts'. Can't say I was shocked by any of them, but I know that other people may react differently and including some of these quilts in a public exhibition may be confronting for some.

While reading this article, I recalled Jenny Bowker's quilt, Secret Women's Business, which she made in 2000. You can see a photo and description of it on Jenny's webpage. It is a stunning piece of textile art, and certainly raised some eyebrows when it was seen. My opinion, though, is that it is a thoughtful exploration of women's sexuality.

It's difficult to know what some people will find shocking. Each viewer of an individual quilt sees it differently - she adds layers of her own life experiences to the viewing. She will also react differently, depending on her personal circumstances.

I know that this issue of Quilter's Home was withdrawn from sale in a chain of shops in the USA because of the 'Shocking quilts' article. My copy was bought here in a newsagency but, for the first time, it was sold in a sealed plastic bag, which I thought was ridiculous. Unless it was to shield people from that irritating style of writing?

19 March 2009

Thursday snapshot

Reading - Thanks for the memories by Cecelia Ahern. Enjoying the behaviour of the characters.

Struggling - with the connection of a digital set-top box to my televsion set. How hard can it be?

Anticipating - my Saturday excursion to Katoomba. Quilts!

Finishing - the binding on a quilt. And a label. Tick!

Feeling - sad about a recent death and a friend's hospitalisation.

Appreciating - my good friends. They know who they are.

Enjoying - the cooler nights, courtesy of autumn. Soon cooler days will follow.

Startled - by a huge blue-tongued lizard in my backyard. Where did it come from?

Always - trying to be positive. I don't always succeed, though.

17 March 2009

Excursion time!

I love an excursion. It's fun to get out of the house and see new things. So it's with glee that I'm looking forward to next Saturday, when Nola and I will be travelling to Katoomba to see quilts. To make it a proper day out, we'll be travelling from Sydney, up the Blue Mountains to the wonderful town of Katoomba on the train. Such fun.

The quilts we are going to see will be at the glorious Carrington Hotel. This historic hotel is a local landmark and was originally built in 1882. I have to make sure my camera batteries are charged, because I'm sure we will be snapping lots of pics!

But back to the quilts. The event is the inaugural Katoomba Quilt Show and Airing of the Quilts. The weather forecast is fine and sunny, so it will be a wonderful opportunity to see quilts in the mountain air. I am so looking forward to this day. Maybe I'll see you there?

15 March 2009


Not really my favourite part of quiltmaking, although it is very satisfying to admire a finished quilt. Having just cut these strips, now I begin the joining and then the attaching to the edges of the quilt. Turning the binding and hand stitching it is a job well-suited to doing in front of a good movie.

Which part of making a quilt do you like least? I always procrastinate for a long time at the binding stage and suddenly cleaning the bathroom starts to look appealing. Which part do you put off?

14 March 2009


IF I had any sense, I would have taken my camera to the Slow Burners class this morning.

IF I had taken my camera, I could have taken photos of the fantastic hand-pieced blocks that everyone had made since last month's class.

IF I had taken the photos, I could have shared them with you here.

IF I had shared them here, you would have been inspired to start your own blocks.

But I didn't so you'll just have to believe me when I say that the blocks were sensational! Trust me, I'm a quilter.

If Trish, Deidre, Lyn or Kate are reading this and would like to email me some photos, please do! The link to my email is in the right-hand sidebar.

12 March 2009

Tulis batiks

Love these batiks! I bought them from Tulis Textiles last weekend and I can imagine more of them in my future. Tulis is a company in New Zealand, and Kerry bought some of her stock over here to tempt us. It worked.

While I was at the show, Kerry introduced me to the new range of threads she is stocking - WonderFil products. Oh, my goodness! I have never seen such wonderful colours in a collection. There are cottons, rayons, polyesters and some stunning fancy threads for bobbin work. I restrained myself (mostly because it was so difficult to decide) and bought a single spool - a gorgeous blue variegated thread (Fruitti colour FT23). You can see Kerry's range of threads here. Yum!

11 March 2009

Grandma's Star 2

I've had several enquiries about the Grandma's Star block I showed on Monday. Yes, it was cut using a set of Matilda's Own perspex templates from Material Obsession. I'm glad you like it, because you'll probably be seeing more versions of this in the future! Lime green is making me very happy.

Making blocks with these and other perspex templates is the subject of my Slow Burners classes at Material Obsession. You can see how fussy cutting can change the appearance of a block and how easy it is to piece these by hand.

It's not to late to join us for a peaceful couple of hours each month where we can hand piece blocks and enjoy the slower pace of creating unique quilts. The next session is next Saturday 14 March. To book your place, email Material Obsession or phone 9817 2733.

10 March 2009

Tuesday snapshot

This week, I am:

Reading - Portobello by Ruth Rendell. I am half way through it and it's still not gripping me, but will persevere.

Eating - the last of the summer's yellow peaches. Yum.

Welcoming - Sarah Fielke, formerly of Material Obsession, back to blogland. Read her new blog here.

Excited about - the possibility of going to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, UK in August. Details are currently being worked out.

Watching - Lost in Austen on ABC1. Witty, intriguing and funny television viewing. Eagerly waiting for part 2 next Sunday night.

Busy - writing instructions for my Roses on Sunshine quilt. Oh, and must sew the binding, too!

Harvesting - lovely homegrown frilly-edged lettuce. Nothing like fresh from the garden food.

Pondering - about what to make for the Unique Stitching 2009 Art Quilt Challenge. The theme is childhood. Mmmm...

Sewing - on my brand-new SewEzi sewing table. Ah, bliss.

So what's your week like?

09 March 2009

Grandma's Star

As you can see, I'm still enjoying working with greens and blues. Here's my latest hand-pieced block, Grandma's Star. I think I have fallen for this one and plan to make more in this colourway. The fabric in the outside pieces is a very fine stripe and I think it works well as a neutral. I will try to buy some more this week so I can use it in all the blocks to unite them.

08 March 2009

It's our day

Happy International Women's Day everyone! Let's be proud of our achievements and our accomplishments. We rock.

07 March 2009

Oh my feet!

Two days having fun at the Sydney CraftFest with one day to go. Talking to people all day and being surrounded by delicious products in all the colours of the rainbow - it's exhilarating, but oh my feet! They deserve a long rest overnight so I can go the distance tomorrow. I will blog properly again after that.

05 March 2009

Art Cloth Challenge

I so love blogs. One click leads to another blog and then another click leads to... Hours can easily disappear as I click around the world. You probably enjoy this too!

Yesterday I found the Art Cloth Challenge blog. This is so interesting and perfectly demonstrates how different people can use their creative skills on identical pieces of cloth. Set up by Jane Dunnewold, the blog displays the results of a challenge set by Jane. As she explains:

"In December of 2007, I issued an invitation to surface designers through the Complex Cloth Internet list. Anyone who was interested in working on a dyed two yard length of silk habotai was to write to me and indicate interest. I put all the names in a hat, and drew out twelve participants' names. I wanted it to be a democratic event."

You can see what 12 artists did to their piece of cloth. Amazingly inspiring!

04 March 2009

If you are in Sydney

come and say hi to me at CraftFest on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. It's a new general craft show at The Dome in Sydney Showgrounds at Homebush. I'll be working for Cecile on her wonderful Unique Stitching stand.

Every time I see Cecile, she has new products to tempt me. Arty things like dyes, paints, all sorts of interesting silk products, paint sticks, films and fibres - oh the list goes on! I always take the opportunity to top up my dye supplies - this time I will be looking very closely at the sea green colours.

Do you ever find a colour calls out to you and you simply have to make something in that colour? At the moment it is blue and green for me - all bright and all variations. I have to get it out of my system somehow!

03 March 2009

Writing patterns

Sometimes it feels as if it takes as long to write instructions for a quilt pattern as it does to actually make the quilt! This week I've written two lots of instructions - one for someone else's quilt and one for a quilt of mine. It is satisfying work, trying to make it as straightforward as possible for the reader to follow, but it always amazes me how much knowledge we take for granted and forget to include.

The thing about published quilt patterns is that you never know where they will go. This means you can never know how experienced the quilter who tries to make your quilt actually is or what they know or don't know.

For example, these days we always assume that a quilt maker knows how to use a rotary cutter and ruler to cut strips, so we don't explain that in a pattern. It is a rare pattern that explains how to do the quilting on a project - usually it is the dreaded 'quilt as desired', which is so unhelpful to the inexperienced.

I'd really like to hear any comments about quilt patterns you have used (without naming and shaming). What information did you find lacking, or what extra information could have helped you make more sense of the instructions? Do you prefer diagrams or step-by-step photos?

02 March 2009

The Fabric of Society

I had the pleasure of browsing through this new book by Annette Gero last week. Annette is Australia's leading quilt historian and she has written extensively on the subject. The Fabric of Society: Australia's Quilt Heritage from Convict Times to 1960 shows an amazingly detailed collection of Australian quilts.
There are 130 quilts shown in the book and the quality of the volume is stunning. As if that isn't enough, there are patterns to recreate 29 of the quilts, written by Kim McLean, whose attention to detail is outstanding.
It is an expensive book, but well worth the money. You can order a copy here.

01 March 2009

The perfect sewing machine

Over at the Quiltland Chronicle, you can read all about the perfect sewing machine that has just been released. It certainly has many new features that I crave! While you are there, read some of Queen Helen's other hilarious posts. She doesn't update the blog often, but each entry is worth waiting for.