Monday 12 December 2011

Christmas Table Runner

We have put up our Christmas decorations and my daughter decided to change things around this year. For the past few years we have been decorating the lounge room only and had just one heavily decorated room. This year my daughter decided that we will put some decorations in the family room as well because that is where we spend most of our time.

She put Santa and his sleigh in the middle of the table and it looked too bare. I decided that he needed a table runner underneath him. I wanted something quick and easy, although it took longer than I expected. At first I thought I would piece some stars to go in the middle but realised that it would be too busy and I was supposed to be showing off the sleigh and not the table runner.

I found some white fabric with some gold stars printed on it to resemble snow and found a Christmas border print that I had bought years ago when on holidays.

I quilted the white centre with a large free form feather pattern. It was a good excuse to have some feather practice and to try out the YLI silk thread with the metallic gold added to it. I quilted around the leaves and pine cones on the border.

I have been looking more carefully at my decorations this year because I want to use them as my inspiration for CQJP 2012. That is the Crazy Quilt Journal Project for next year and there is still time to sign up for it, if anyone is still thinking about it.

I will definitely have a Nutcracker in my quilt somewhere, I'll have to pick which one I'll use as the model.

I'll have to take a lot of photos of the different ornaments because by the time I put everything up again next year, I will have finished all the blocks! How exciting. I hope that it works out.

Bye for now,

Friday 2 December 2011

Batting Test

I teach a lot of machine quilting and often get asked about the best batting or wadding to use in a quilt. I always use Matilda's Own 60% wool and 40% poly, except when I make a baby quilt then I use 100% cotton.
I had a look at my different battings that I owned and found that I had 5 different types. I made up 9" square samples to sew and test them equally to see how they measured up.

The battings that I used were
Matilda's Own 60% Wool and 40% Poly
Matilda's Own 100% Cotton
Hobbs Tuscany Collection 100% Wool
Sew Easy Bamboo
Silk 100% ( I don't know the brand name of the silk, it was a sample piece given to me in a Silk class at Houston last year)

I changed the fabric colours so I could easily recognise the different battings but the fabrics were all Ricky Tims hand dyed fabric.

Test Results

The silk and cotton battings had a lovely strong grip on the backing fabric and the wool had a quite a good grip as well.

The wool batting came out on top for loft, the heart that I quilted looks as if I have trapuntoed it. The 60/40 Wool/ Poly had a good body and the cotton was surprisingly good as well. The bamboo and silk felt too thin with no body at all. They show no dimension in the quilting. I have seen that they are advertising a bamboo batting with a poly mix so that might fare better than the 100% bamboo.
Although the loft with the wool was wonderful, I had to be very careful that I didn't quilt in a tuck because of the thickness, the wool/poly mix was the easiest to quilt.

 Fold Test
I folded the the finished samples in half with the right sides together and left them for a couple of days. They all showed fold marks. When I washed and dryed them the fold marks disappeared on all of them.
I folded them again but this time I folded them with the wrong sides together and the fold marks were minor compared to when the right sides were together. I must remember to fold my quilts with the right side facing out.

The wool, wool/poly did not shrink at all. The silk and the cotton both shrunk by an 1/8' and the bamboo shrunk by 1/4".  I was surprised at the amount of shrinkage on a 9" square. This would be more pronounced on a large quilt.

This is where I had the most unexpected result. I used a different colour in the top and the bobbin so I could see that the tension was correct.
I sewed the heart in the centre with cotton thread and the tension was good on all the samples, but I had to adjust it slightly for each sample.
I used a YLI 100% silk for the stippling around the heart. If you are going to have tension issues, the silk thread will show them up.
I quilted the wool/poly first and had no trouble.
I had a lot of trouble getting the tension right on the bamboo, in the end I changed the bobbin thread to match the top thread to mask the problem.
I had a lot of trouble with the silk thread shredding in the cotton and silk battings.
I was having so many tension and shredding issues that I started to think that it was the sewing machine but the last little sample I quilted was the 100% wool and I had no tension or shredding troubles at all.

Whenever people are having tension and thread problems it has never occured to me that it might be the batting that they have used that is causing the problem.
Because the silk and cotton batting had such a good grip with the backing fabric, I wonder if it was gripping the thread while I was quilting it.


This was my final test. I had put a black fabric on the back of each sample to help show up the thread and tension problems and show any bearding that might occur. Bearding is when the little fibres of batting come through the fabric, no matter how many times you wash or brush it.It is only a problem with dark fabrics, but it is heartbreaking when it happens after all that work of quilting the quilt.

The only batting that didn't beard was the Hobbs Tuscany Collection 100% wool. Matilda's Own make their 60/40 Wool/Poly in a charcoal colour and I have used it many times on a dark coloured quilt and had no problems.
The bearding with the bamboo batting is particulary bad.

I will continue to use the Matilda's Own wool/poly mix but I am also going to quilt my next quilt with the Hobbs Tuscany Collection 100% wool. Matilda's Own is an Australian company and they also make a 100% wool batt but I haven't tried it yet.

Bye for now,

Thursday 24 November 2011

Forest Threads Exhibition

This week I went to the Forest Threads Exhibition which is being held at the Box Hill Town Hall in Melbourne.
Australian Quilts in Public Places(AQIPP) is an initiative of AQA (Australian Quilters Association) designed to enhance the public awareness and appreciation of Quilting.
Because 2011 is the International Year of the Forests the theme for the Juried and Judged show was named Forest Threads.

It was a wonderful exhibition and all the quilts were displayed really well. I only took a few photos of some of my very favourites but there were many other quilts that were just as inspiring.

This first photo is a quilt by Les Clarke, named Forest Threads. This is one of the first quilts that you see as you are entering the exhibition and it was hard to photograph because it was in a glass case. Les has used a lot of thread work showing flowers, water, insects and birds in the forest.

The next quilt is by Barbara Bennetts and it is named Diversity. Barbara used elements from many different regions to form a mystical place of her own imagining. I liked this quilts when I was close to it but I didn't appreciate the depth until I was across the room and looked back at the quilt. The photo doesn't do it justice.

The next photo is a quilt named Ashes to Ashes by Noelle Lyon. This was a lovely quilt using layers of sheer fabric to depict the bushfires in the Alpine National Park in 2006. Noelle says that the fire was so hot the trees have not regrown.

The next photo shows Jan Frazer's quilt named Chromatropes.This quilt was exploring the changing light in the forest using many different techniques.

The next picture is of Annettes Bauneis's quilt named Roots and All. Annette was inspired by the flowing Tingle Trees in Western Australia.

The last photo I have to show you is a quilt by Alison Withers called Clearfell. This quilt was made using hand dyed felt and was all about the changing environment in a man made landscape. This quilt was very different from the others in the exhibition and the more I looked at it the more I liked it.

My photos don't really do these quilts justice and I can highly recommend a visit to the exhibiton. It is on until 21st December, so there is still plenty of time to get there if you live in Melbourne.

You can find the details and opening times of the exhibition by clicking Here

Bye for now,

Thursday 17 November 2011

Crazy Quilt Journal Project 2012

The Crazy Quilt Journal Project 2012 has just begun. Registration is open to everyone from 15th November to 27th December 2011.
The idea is to create a Crazy Quilt block every month for 12 months and share them with everyone in the group if you want. People from all over the world are going to participate and it will be a lot of fun seeing everyone's different blocks.

I have never done a group project like this before but it has come at the right time for me. I am just finishing up two hand work projects, a crazy quilt and an applique quilt. The next quilt that I have in my mind to do is by machine so I will be without any hand work.

I always like to have some hand work for when I am watching TV or going to a sewing/friendship group. Now I will have my Crazy Quilt Journal blocks to sew. I am feeling quite excited by this because I haven't started a new project for over 12 months.

If you are interested in participating look at their website and read all about it.

The blocks can be any size from 6" x 6", so it shouldn't be too much work. Maybe you have never done any Crazy Quilting before, this could be the ideal time to give it a go.

Now I just have to decide what my theme will be. I am thinking Christmas, but I have also thought about doing some pale floaty lace type blocks...No, Christmas it is. You don't have to have a theme, that's just the way I do Crazy Quilting.

Bye for now,

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Another Student Quilt

While I was teaching my Crazy about Australia class, Kaye, one of my students from last year dropped by to show us her completed quilt. It's always a great thrill for the class to see a former student's quilt finished.
I have been teaching this class for a few years now and everyone's quilt looks different.

We were all looking closely at her embroidery and colour scheme. It's good to see what little changes Kaye made. I love teaching this class because people usually start out a bit scared and tentative and by the end of the 12 months they have become so confident with colour choices and their embroidery skills increase tremendously.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me that day, so Kaye emailed me a photo.

Thanks Kaye

Bye for now,

Friday 4 November 2011

Scottish Dance

My quilt Scottish Dance seems to be appearing a lot lately even though I made it back in 2006. I was inspired to make a Scottish themed quilt after reading the series of books by Diana Gabaldon that are set in Scotland. I thought about how I would design it for at least two years before I started to sew anything.
Everything I thought of just didn't seem right. One day I sat down and wrote a list of all the quilts that I would like to make. It was a long list and I knew that many would never get done. I combined three of the ideas together and was finally happy with my design.
The three ideas were;
A red and green quilt
A quilt with two different coloured backgrounds and
A Scottish Quilt.

I was asked by Quilters Companion Magazine to let them publish the pattern. The pattern appeared in isssue 26 and 27. I have been told that all the back issues are sold out, but I haven't checked to see if that is right.

I have received quite a few emails from people saying how much they love the quilt and many have since made the quilt. I noticed that the quilt made by others are starting to appear in quilt shows and the people must have done a lovely job because they have been winning prizes.

This morning I found that The Quilt Show Blog has featured my quilt as their Quilt of the Day. The Quilt Show is is an Internet TV Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims. I have been a member since it first started because I used to love watching Alex Anderson's show Simply Quilts when it used to be on TV.
I love nothing better than having a free afternoon to sit in front of one of their shows while doing some applique or embroidery. My clever husband has connected a computer to our television, so I can watch the shows on TV instead of a computer screen.

Bye for now,

Monday 24 October 2011

Quilters Companion Magazine

I was at the newsagent and innocently bought the latest Quilters Companion Magazine, not realising that there was an article about me in it!

It is their Great Australian Quilts No. 3. The magazine is wrapped in plastic because there is a CD with it called Learn Machine Applique with Rachelle Denneny. When I opened the plastic I noticed my name on the cover.

They've devoted 6 pages about me including photos of 7 of my quilts. The article is titled A Disciplined Designer!

I am happy to be described as disciplined, isn't everyone?  Maybe not.
I think that they have written a lovely article except that they wrongly state on the pattern page that I live in Horsham! Don't look for me there, I live in Park Orchards.

Quilters Companion asked me a few months ago to create a project for their magazine based on one of my latest quilts.
I designed a Wall Hanging named Panda Crazy based on a block in my quilt Eastern Elements.
This is a crazy quilt using free machine thread painting for all the stitches and motifs. Instead of doing all the embroidery by hand I have done it on the machine but not using the programmed fancy stitches. I think that the programmed stitches are fine for some things but I find them a bit flat for a crazy quilt. I have added some braids and beads as well.

The pattern is well set out with a lot of step by step photos. There a quite a few different techniques to use when making up the pattern including, foundation piecing, free motion machine thread painting and stitching and inserting piping into the binding.

I wonder if anyone ever makes up the patterns in Magazines? I think I might have made one once or twice a few years ago. These days, I just look at the photos and read the articles.

Here is a photo of the actual wall hanging.

Bye for now,

Wednesday 19 October 2011

World Crazy Quilt Progress

 I am still working on my World Crazy Quilt (I am still thinking of what I will name the quilt). I have 12 different blocks representing different countries and after I put the blocks onto the background fabric, I thought that they looked a bit plain and bare.

Well, I thought that they needed a bit of embroidery around the borders and it wouldn't take long.
How wrong was I! Each block took two hours to complete the embroidery. That's 24 hours of work that I hadn't planned on.

When I had finished doing the little lazy daisy stitches, I had to put a bead on each cluster. Once again I miscalculated because each block took 40 minutes to add the beads. I had thought that it would take about 15 minutes.

So my little after thought took an extra 2 hours 40 minutes for each block. No wonder these quilts take me so long to do. I think it is worth the work though, judging from the photo above.

I have also been busy with the Australia block that will be in the centre.

Bye for now,

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Blog of the Week!

Well, I had a big surprise this week when the American Quilters Society picked my blog as their Blog of the Week.

I was thrilled!

I have been a member of AQS for a few years now and I love their magazine, American Quilter. It is always full of wonderfully large photos of prize winning quilts.

I have entered their big quilt show in Paducah a few times and I always order the catalogue because it has a photo of every quilt in the show.

American Quilter also has a facebook page for those of you on facebook. They are always talking about interesting things.

Thanks American Quilter.

Bye for now,

Wednesday 12 October 2011


I have been away on holidays for a week at Bateman's Bay, which is in New South Wales, about 2 hours east of Canberra and 3 hours south of Sydney.

My favourite birds are blue wrens and I kept seeing them everywhere. I was so happy and driving my children mad by trying to take photos of them all the time. They are so quick that it was hard to get good photos.

We went to the Mogo Zoo which was one of the best zoos that we have been to, I got so many closeup animal shots. I can imagine putting this Komado dragon in a crazy quilt.

The next day we went to Birdland and I have so many wonderful closeup photos of parrots, kookaburras and owls that I'll be able to use in my quilts.
We spent ages with the peacocks because they all had their tails out showing off to the peahens and doing their mating dance. One of the peahens went pecking for food down a path and the poor peacock couldn't fit his tail through and was all sad. We thought that she mustn't be interested in him but next thing she was back pecking for food right in front of the peacock!
Even the back of the peacock is very attractive.

I managed to go to a couple of patchwork shops without driving the family crazy. I went to Patchwork on the Bay in Bateman's Bay and Steph's Patchwork and Stitching in Moruya. Steph's is a big shop with a huge variety of supplies. In Mogo I went to a scrapbooking, art and craft shop called Amanda's of Mogo, it was like an Alladin's Cave with so much stock. There was also a shop that only sold beads, so I managed to spend money in all the shops and came home with a nice supply of things.

The picture shows some of the purchases I made. I also bought a 24 set of Inktense pencils.

It's nice to go away and have a change of scenery but it's good to be home as well.

Bye for now,

Thursday 29 September 2011

Another Crazy Quilt in Progress

I have been very busy this year teaching my Quilting All Over the World class as a block of the month.
The original quilt is very large and quite complicated to put together. I decided to make the quilt a smaller and more manageable size for the class.

Because I changed the quilt to a square setting instead of a circular setting, I had to add four more countries. The countries that I decided to add were Canada, Spain, Scotland and New Zealand.

I have finally finished all the small blocks and they are pictured above. The quilt is a medallion setting and I am going to put a large Australia block in the centre. It has been really interesting for me to re-do this quilt, it has given me the opportunity to change some things that I didn't like in the original quilt.

I also had to change some blocks because when I reduced the size, some of the motifs that I had done in the first version didn't work as well in a smaller size.

I am now trying to finish the centre so I can finally put this quilt together. The class members have been very patient, watching the quilt progress month by month. I promised them it will be finished by the next class! I have a lot of work to do.

I am very happy with my kangaroos in the centre.

Bye for now,

Thursday 22 September 2011

Quilting Novels

I have just finished reading the three quilting novels by Margaret A. Rowe. I can highly recommend these enjoyable novels, if you like the Elm Creek series then you will love these.

I was teaching at the Michelle's Sewing Basket retreat earlier this year and Margaret was the guest speaker. She was so entertaining and inspiring that I bought all three of her books.

They tell the story of a group of quilting friends and their joys and disappointments in life as they participate in their Patchwork Guild's Challenge for the year. The novels are set in Australia and their challenge each year has something to do with the history of Australia's settlement, so not only are you enjoying the novel you can learn a bit of history as well.

The first novel in the series is called The Maria Challenge Quilt, next comes The Elizabeth Challenge and the third novel is called The Caroline Challenge.

Margaret has such a lovely, natural way of writing and it is very easy to identify with the characters. The books seem well researched and although no quilt shops are named, you will recognise the shops if you have been there.

Margaret has self published her books and I have seen them for sale in some quilt shops here in Victoria. You can also buy them directly from Margaret by emailing her. My only complaint is that I wish they were longer, I didn't want them to finish. I know that she is working on a fourth novel, so I hope that it doesn't take her much longer to finish it.

Bye for now,

Friday 16 September 2011

Student Quilts 2010

I had a lovely surprise this week. I teach my quilt Crazy about Australia as a block of the month at a shop named Missy Moo. Carlie, one of my students from last year has just finished her quilt and she brought it in to show me.
I think that she has done a lovely job. She changed the centre so she could depict her Grandfather's old house, which I think is a lovely idea and makes her quilt even more special.

I have also received a photo from Sue, who was in the same class as Carlie.

Sue has actually personalised her centre as well. What talented women I teach.
The class goes for 12 months and it is always lovely to see how the students gain confidence as the months progress.

Bye for now,

Friday 9 September 2011

Free Motion Feet

I have always quilted my quilts with a closed toe free motion foot that had a little plastic insert in the middle, mainly because that is what came with my machine and they didn't make an open toe foot for my machine.

But, I always wanted an open toe foot especially when I was doing some intricate work and wanted to finish at an exact spot in a quilted feather for example. You can see through the plastic insert but sometimes the sewing machine light seemed to reflect off of it and it wasn't ideal.

I spoke to the man in the sewing machine shop and he managed to find an open toe foot from another brand machine that fitted my sewing machine.

I was so happy and couldn't wait to try it and thought that I would never use my original foot again.

Imagine my surprise when I found that the open toe foot caught on the embroidery stitches when quilting my Crazy Quilts. It also got stuck if I had a few seams that came together in a bit of a lump.

Luckily I have still got my original foot and didn't cut out the front, the way I was tempted to.

Now I know why they make the two types of free motion feet.

Bye for now,

Monday 5 September 2011

Houston Auction Quilt Completed

I have finished my little quilt for the International Quilt Association's (IQA) Silent Auction which will be held at the Houston Quilt Show in early November 2011. The money raised helps support the activities of IQA including the quilt show.

I have named my quilt Crazy about Kookaburras and it measures 17" (44cm) square.

I think that it looks much better quilted. Quilting adds  texture and interest. Traditionally crazy quilts were not quilted and usally didn't include any wadding or batting. They were just the embroidered top and a backing fabric and then tied in certain spots to hold the two layers together.

I make my quilts to hang on a wall and so always include the wadding and quilting.

Bye for now,

Monday 29 August 2011

Vienna Art and Design

Over the weekend I visited the Vienna Art and Design exhibition at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). The exhibition was focussing on the work of Klimt, Schiele, Hoffman and Loos between 1890-1920.

The exhibition showed not only paintings and drawings of the period but architecture, furniture, household goods and jewellery. Everything was decorated in the Art Deco style. The mathematical, geometric shapes are so inspirational and suitable for patchwork and quilting.
Everywhere we looked from a carving on a chair or a pattern on a vase or cup, there was a design that could inspire a quilt or a quilting design.

Last year we studied Art Deco in the Waverley Art Quilters group and I made the little quilt that is pictured above. The clean abstract lines of Art Deco was popular between the 1st and 2nd World War but obviously had its beginnings earlier than this.

We also studied Gustav Klimt with the Waverley Art Quilters. Klimt was born in 1862 and died in 1918. He is famous for his painting The Kiss. The little quilt that I made was inspired by his golden period. They had a quite a few Klimt paintings in the exhibition and it was so wonderful to see them after looking at them in books for so long. Paintings are like quilts, they always look so much better in real life. You don't have any idea of scale in books either. Most of the Klimt paintings we saw were quite large.

I should be drawing up quilt designs now before I lose the inspiration.

Bye for now,

Friday 26 August 2011

Kookaburra has a Border

I have put a border around my Kookaburra block and I decided to add some embroidery as well. I used a feather stitch and then added some leaves, lazy daisy flowers and some colonial knots.

After I had finished stitching the border, I embroidered some more flowers in the top right corner because I thought that it looked a little bare up there.

A friend contacted me to say that she couldn't see where I had added the ribbon embroidery on the block, so I have a couple of close ups to show.

I added some ribbon flowers on top of the lace motifs.

I also added some ribbon leaves underneath the blue wren.

I have basted my little quilt and I hope to have some time over the weekend to quilt it. Nearly finished now!

Bye for now,

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Ribbons and Beads

I am still working away on my small quilt for the Houston Silent Auction 2011. I have finished adding the ribbon embroidery and the beads and now it is starting to look finished.
I have used 4mm silk ribbon and most of them have been hand dyed so there is a slight variation in the colour. I think that it is not quite as flat looking as a plain silk ribbon.
I always use the Mill Hill small glass beads, I think it adds a bit of sparkle and light to the stitches.

Next I will be putting some borders on the little quilt and I'll decide if the border needs some embroidery as well.

Bye for now,