Sunday 26 October 2014

Blogger's Quilt Festival - Night Sky Mini Quilt

My second entry in the Bloggers Quilt Festival is my Night Sky mini quilt. I measures 20" square, so I'm entering it into the mini quilts category.

I finished this one a couple of weeks ago as part of the Handmade Birthday swap I'm participating in for the next twelve months. It was a fast and fun mini quilt to put together, and it was such an enjoyable quilt to quilt :o)

I used the brilliant Night Sky pattern by Jaybird Quilts - and have since made a second mini quilt and have started a full sized quilt. They are addictive blocks to make!

Thanks for stopping by my blog, I hope you enjoy the rest of the festival :o)

xx Jess

Blogger's Quilt Festival - Breaking Storm

I've been debating whether or not to enter the Fall 2014 Blogger's Quilt Festival, hosted by Amy of Amy's Creative Side. Most of what I've worked on in the last six months I can't share yet - but I decided I would enter a few of my recent finishes, since it is such a fun event to be part of, and I've entered every festival since starting my blog three years ago. 

My first entry is my Breaking Storm quilt, which I'm entering in the Large Quilts category. This quilt was recently published in Quilters Companion's Modern Quilts special issue, and it is still one of my favorite quilts I've made. 

This quilt was inspired by the way the sky looks at the end of a big storm, with swirling clouds and bits of sun and blue sky peeking through. It is entirely made using the traditional Snail Trail block.

This is a full twin sized quilt - it measures 72" x 96". The biggest quilt I've quilted on my domestic machine, and a brilliant learning experience. I chose to quilt the 'negative space' (the various shades of grey) with a variegated grey 40wt Aurifil thread, using a swirly/pebbly design to give it lots of texture, and then quilted the coloured areas with simple straight line FMQ.

Thanks for visiting my blog, I'm looking forward to checking out all the entries in the festival!

xx Jess

Sunday 19 October 2014

Starjump Quilt Top

I thought this quilt was going to take me a bit longer to finish - but a couple of marathon sewing sessions over the last few nights and it is done!

I am SO in love with this quilt. It has been such an enjoyable journey putting it together and seeing all the secondary patterns emerge. Although it is a pretty restricted colour palette (teal, yellow/ochre, black/grey and purple/cerise) I've used a huge range of fabrics in here - a few prints from Jungle Ave, some Cotton and Steel basics, lots of Micro Mod prints (these were the inspiration for the whole quilt), some Denyse Schmidt (I don't think I've made a single quilt without at least one of her fabrics) and a few others. Despite the restricted palette, I think because I've used a range of hues within each colour family, it is quite a dynamic quilt.

I basted it tonight, and am using a long hoarded print for the back - it's been waiting for the perfect quilt, and I think I've found it ;o) This print is from Alexander Henry's Mecca for Modern collection and I had exactly the right sized piece for this quilt. It was obviously meant to be.

I'm hoping to get this quilted fairly quickly - I'd love to enter it into the Blogger's Quilt Festival (although that may be slightly ambitious!!) I am also writing this one up as a pattern at the moment, so hopefully I'll release it by the end of the year (once it's tested etc).

xx Jess

Saturday 18 October 2014

Free Motion QAL - Spirals and a linky party!

Welcome to the third video FMQ tutorial in the QAL! Today I'll be showing you how I quilt spirals. This was a really tricky one to film. I think it's because I'm quilting on such a light yellow fabric, and the light was bouncing off it causing glare, which meant it was really difficult to see what I was doing. It still isn't brilliant I'm afraid - there are still a few parts where it's a bit difficult to see what I'm doing, but hopefully overall it gives you an idea of how I approach quilting spirals. You can find the video here.

I also wanted to show you how much my spirals have changed over the time I've been FMQing. I think my first attempt was on my Groove quilt, back in October 2012. This was the first quilt I tried custom quilting, rather than a simple all-over design, and it was a brilliant learning experience. I still love this quilt, but my spirals (more than the other designs I think) have evolved a lot since this one :o)

9 months (and a fair bit of practice) later, they were more like this. The main change is that I started making them wider spaced and the lines are more evenly spaced, which I prefer (and which is also totally personal.) You might find you prefer completely different looking spirals - where the concentric circles are different widths apart, or the spirals are slightly elongated for example - and these both give beautiful texture as well, so it's just a matter of taste I think.

Another six month jump (this is the end of last year), and I think I was starting to get really comfortable quilting spirals. It does take a while to build up the muscle memory - but once you have it, it takes far less concentration to quilt and make it look like you want it to.

Finally, this is one of my most recent (secret) projects. I'm really proud of the quilting on this quilt, and I can't wait to show you the whole thing :o)

So you can see, practice makes a huge impact on your quilting. I do quilt a reasonable amount (I would say at least one quilt a month at a rough guess) - but even so, I'm quite surprised at how much my quilting has actually changed over the last couple of years. So even if you're not happy with your first few attempts, it's worth persevering, because it does become easier with practice.

If you do have a chance to watch the video, I'd love to hear your thoughts on a few things. Something I'm trying to do in these videos is explain how I plan where I'm going and how I get myself out of corners - is that something that's helpful in a video tutorial? Or should I just quilt and not talk so much? I'm also wondering if the slightly higher angle is better on this one compared to the first two. I really want to keep doing these videos, but I'd like to make them as helpful as possible ;o)

I have forgotten to add a linky party to almost all my posts sorry - but I did remember today, so if you'd like to link up your progress from the QAL, or if you've quilted anything using my tutorials please link up below, and try to visit a couple of the other blogs :o)

xx Jess

Thursday 16 October 2014


A few weeks ago, my nephew turned three. I had bought this gorgeous dinosaur panel from Frangipani Fabrics (where I work/teach - it's very dangerous!) about six months ago intending to quilt it for my sister's small dinosaur fanatic, but kept putting it off until a few days before his birthday party. There were a few rather late nights involved in getting it finished!

I haven't really quilted panels before - but it is seriously so much fun. I started by quilting the circular dinosaur pictures, and tried to choose designs that suited the pictures. Nothing fancy, I just wanted to add some interesting texture in the backgrounds. Swirly air-currents,

leaves to munch,

 wavy lines,

and a few more pebbles.

In the large coloured squares, I FMQ'd straight lines in threads that matched the background and in the outer border I simply quilted around the dinosaurs.

I did put little hanging pockets on the back, thinking it would be a good wall quilt, but apparently it has now replaced his normal blankets and he won't sleep under anything else. As it should be really ;o) I do have another panel waiting to be quilted - my 4 year old spotted a Frozen panel and is regularly harassing me about it, so I suspect you'll see that soonish too.

xx Jess

PS I apologise for the lack of FMQ tutorial this week - I had great intentions, but then came down with a virus on Monday night so I just haven't had the energy to film anything yet. I'm hoping to get it done tomorrow though, so please bear with me on it :o)

Decipher Your Quilt - Calculating Backings, Bindings and Borders

This week, Leanne of She Can Quilt and I will be talking about calculations for the three B's: backing fabric, binding and borders. It's a pretty lengthy post - and I haven't even touched on several things (like mitred borders and pieced borders), but if you would like us to cover anything we haven't already discussed, please let us know and we can add an extra post :o)

I apologise for this long and very wordy post, it was very difficult to come up with pictures for this one!


There are two main types of borders you'll come across in making quilts: straight borders (where you add borders to two opposite sides of the quilt, and then add borders to the other two sides) and mitred borders - where you mitre all four corners of the border. To keep this post from reaching epic proportions I'll just talk about straight borders today - but there is plenty of information available on the interwebs if you want to learn more about different types of borders. 

I don't often add borders to my quilts, but there are a few examples of where I've made quilts with borders so I've dotted those throughout this post to add a little bit of colour. Considering they are essentially just large rectangles, I think it's a bit surprising how much pain adding borders to your quilt can cause. The biggest problem that can happen is that your borders will end up wavy around the edges of the quilt - especially with very wide borders - but there are a few things you can do to stop this from happening.  

Measuring your quilt top to add borders is important - regardless of whether you're working from a pattern or designing your own quilt. I know when I make a quilt top it is very rarely square - partly from seams that probably aren't exactly 1/4" and partly because fabric does stretch a little when you handle it a lot. Each of the sides may not be exactly the same length because of these factors - but if you add borders that are the same length as the edges of your quilt top it will make any slight wonkiness in your quilt even more obvious. Even when working from a pattern, it is important to make the borders fit YOUR quilt, rather than assuming the pattern writer's lengths are correct. 

Measure your quilt top:

The most important thing is to measure your quilt top through the centre, rather than measure each of the edges. Some people take three measurements and then average these to get the most exact measurement - but I admit I usually just measure through the centre once. 

If your quilt is square, still measure the horizontal and vertical lengths separately, and make the borders to fit these measurements - you may find your quilt top isn't quite as square as you thought (I'm speaking from experience here!). 

Cut your border fabric:

When cutting fabric for your borders, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. 

1. Always cut your border fabric along the grain of the fabric - border strips that are cut slightly on the bias will stretch much more than those cut straight along the grain. You probably won't notice much of an issue with this, until you go to quilt your quilt - when you get quilting the borders, you may find you have excess fabric around the edges which can be a pain in the bum to quilt. It also makes it more difficult to square up your quilt after quilting. So it's important to make sure your ruler is following the grain when you start cutting strips. If you're cutting wide strips, you might even find you need to re-square up the edge a few times as you go. 

2. Cross-wise grain and length-wise grain have different stretch properties. Cross-wise grain (ie if you are cutting across the width of fabric, selvedge to selvedge like you normally would when cutting fabric for a quilt) has more stretch than length-wise grain (when you cut fabric parallel with the selvedge). 
You can use either type of cut for borders - but you may have to handle cross-wise cut border strips a bit more gently. Starch can really help prevent them from stretching too much. If your borders are really long, you may choose to cut length-wise border strips to avoid having a seam somewhere along your border strip. If you need to sew two pieces together to make a border, remember you will need to add 1/4" to both pieces to account for your seam allowance when they are joined. If you're worried about mucking this up, you could cut the strips a little longer than you think you'll need, and then trim the pieced border to size before attaching it to your quilt. 

3. Avoid cutting your border strips too long and then trimming them to fit the quilt top after you've sewn them - this is the best recipe for getting borders that don't fit properly and end up being warpy around the edges of your quilt.

So, choose which sides you want to add the border strips to, measure that length of the quilt top through the centre in that direction, and cut your border strips this length. 

When you go to sew these strips to your quilt top, it is a good idea to pin it well, to avoid it stretching as much as possible. This is the method I use for adding borders to a quilt:
  • Fold your border strip in half (lengthwise - so the two short ends are matched). Fold it a second time, and depending on how long it is, a third time. Finger press each of these folds. 
  • Do the same thing with your quilt top edges - find the centre point of the quilt top edge, and the points half way between the centre and the edges (and then the points half way between each of these if it is a particularly long border). 
  • Match up the folds on your border strip with the points you found along the edge of your quilt top. Pin each of these points - and then fill in the open areas with more pins. 
Once you've sewn the border on, repeat this process with the opposite side.

Then repeat the whole measuring through the centre (including the borders this time) and pinning process for the remaining two sides of your quilt top.


I think the easiest way to show you how I calculate how much backing fabric I'll need is to work through an example - so I'll work through what I'd do for a fictional 70" x 70" quilt top (my preferred quilt size to make and quilt).

You'll need to make your quilt back a bit bigger than the front - so the first thing to consider is how much overhang you want on your backing fabric. I like to have at least 4" on each side. So for our fictional quilt, the backing would need to be (70" + 4" + 4") x (70" + 4" + 4") = 78" x 78".

Most quilting fabric is around 42" - 43" wide - but when calculating backing requirements I like to round this down to 40". This means I don't need to worry too much about adding seam allowance to my measurements, and unless I'm making a really big quilt (over 80" wide) it will be a sufficient width.

So, if the backing required is 78" wide, I would need two widths of backing fabric (assuming it's 40" wide) to create a quilt back wide enough for the quilt top.

In terms of figuring out the length of fabric I'll need to buy, I divide the length required by 36" (the length of one yard). ie 78"/36" = 2.2 (rounded up). This is sufficient for one half of the quilt back, so I double that to get the total amount required - so here it would be 2.2 x 2 = 4.4 yards, which I'd round up to 4 1/2 yards.

I have to admit I've never made a quilt big enough to need more than two widths of fabric for the binding - but for something larger than about 82" on the shortest side, you would probably need three widths of fabric to make a wide enough backing.


Calculating how much fabric you'll need for binding isn't too tricky. There are just a couple of steps to figure it out:

1. Add together all four sides of your quilt top - so if we use the example quilt above it would be (70 x 4) = 280".
2. Add a bit extra to this number to give yourself extra binding fabric to join the ends together more easily. I add at least 12". So the example quilt would be 292"
3. Divide this number by 40 (roughly the width of fabric) to work out the number of strips of fabric you'll need. So the example quilt would be 292/40 = 7.3. So this would be rounded up to 8 strips of fabric.
4. Multiply the number of strips by the width you normally cut your fabric for binding - I cut my strips at 2.5" most of the time, so for the example quilt I'd figure 8 x 2.5 = 20" of fabric required for binding (so I'd probably buy 2/3 yard, or even 3/4 yard.)

A huge congratulations if you've gotten this far without falling asleep ;o) Leanne and I will be back for one final post in a few weeks time (on joining blocks different sizes together), but if there's anything we have forgotten and you'd like us to add, please let us know as we are happy to cover other topics later on this year.

xx Jess

Monday 13 October 2014


At the end of last week, I had a brainwave and decided to start a new quilt. Because I need another project. Ahem. I'd pulled this bundle of fabrics a few months ago, thinking I might use them for a Steam Punk quilt (still on my bucket list). I started with a bunch of MicroMod prints and pulled a bunch of purple/cerise, yellow/ochre, grey, black and deep teal prints to bulk them out.

But the longer I looked at them the more I wondered if they were right for a steam punk quilt. A week or so later, I was faffing around in EQ7 playing with ideas for a completely unrelated project, when I remembered this fabulous block that Jess and I did as part of our modern sampler QAL a couple of years ago. And I decided they would be the perfect combination. It was one of those ideas that just had to happen straight away, so I've been a bit obsessed making them over the last week or so :o)

I think I've done more unpicking on this quilt than anything I've made before. Some of that has been due to dodgy piecing, but most of it has been because I've decided to swap fabrics around after I've joined the block together. My first block looked like this:

I liked it but I really didn't love it - I think there were just too many saturated tones vieing for attention. So I decided to swap the orange out and put black in there. And then it really was true love.

Obsession was pretty quick to follow. They are giant blocks - 24" finished - so they take a few hours each, but on the plus side I'll only need a few more to have a 72" square quilt. I was considering keeping on going and making a 4x4 block quilt - but my motivation is starting to wane a bit, and I'm too impatient to start quilting it ;o) So a 3x3 quilt it will be.

You can see I needed to fix the bottom left block in the photo above - while I was unpicking I decided to replace the teal Jungle Ave print with a smaller scale print. I will use that one somewhere else, just not with another large-scale print with a lot of white in it. Apologies for the lighting in these photos - my design wall has a light right above it, so I'll have to wait till I've joined them together for a decent photo. It will be nigh on impossible to photograph it once it grows anyway - my design wall is right behind my sewing desk, and I can't move any further back to get a bigger shot!

Hopefully I'll have the rest of the blocks made in the next week or two! I'll be back tomorrow with the next video tutorial in the Free Motion QAL - I haven't decided yet what it will be, but probably spirals...

xx Jess

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Night Sky Mini Quilt

A few months ago, I signed up to participate in an Australian handmade birthday swap, where we make a small gift each month for the birthday girl. It is a wonderful idea - I can't think of a better birthday present than getting eleven packages of handmade goodness. Plus it is a lot of fun working on small projects, something I don't tend to do unless it is for a swap or a quick gift.

For our September birthday girl, I decided to make a mini quilt, using Jaybird Quilt's fabulous Night Sky pattern. These blocks come together really quickly, and it is such a cool block I will definitely be making a whole quilt of these on day. I used a couple of prints from Anna Maria Horner's Pretty Potent collection for the inner star, and some Cotton and Steel basics for the outer points. The background is a couple of white on white prints.

When it came to quilting this one, I actually had a few hiccups. My original quilting plan (and the one I started off trying) just didn't work. At. All. I very rarely rip out FMQ, but in this case it was obvious from fairly early on that it was going to look awful so I unpicked it and started over. I'd basically extended the edges of the star points out into the negative space - and it looked terrible. I'm much happier with the medallion-style quilting I went with - it suits this block so much better. 

 I did mark the main straight lines echoing the central hexagon shape, and marked the centre point of the second 'border'. That was my second hiccup - I'd been using my frixion marker to mark the lines and put it down to do something else. When I went back to finish the marking, I accidentally picked up a normal black pen and drew a line before I'd realised. After a minor tantrum, I decided to see if I could quilt over it to hide it (as it was only a very fine line) - and it worked pretty well. That's why there is a straight line through the pebbles at the top left of the top photo ;o). The centre feathery quilting was inspired by how Angela Walters quilted Julie's original Night Sky quilt, but then I just made it up as I went along.

I used two layers of cotton/wool batting for this one, which is why it's so puffy. The quilting is Aurifil 40wt in soft white, which melts into the background beautifully, and just leaves all the texture. I have to admit it was a little sad saying goodbye to this one, but I'm glad it's going to a good (handmade loving) home :o)

xx Jess

Sunday 5 October 2014

Adventures in reverse applique

I've been pretty quiet around these parts for the last few months. Between teaching, making quilts for publication (and no that isn't code for a book!), working behind the scenes helping to get the Tasmanian MQG up and running and looking after a sick husband and three kids, I haven't had time or the head space for regularly posting on the blog - and I really miss it! I think part of it is that it's so quick and easy to share stuff on Instagram (as so many bloggers have mentioned recently) - but to me blogs are so much more and I miss sharing my process in this space. Now that life has settled back to something close to normal, I'm hoping I'll be blogging a bit more regularly :o)

I do have several projects I've been working on recently that I will share soon - but today I wanted to show you the name tag I made for a recent swap. Just as a bit of background, we had our first meeting of the Tasmanian MQG back at the beginning of October, and I announced our first swap at the meeting - a name tag swap. We kept it pretty simple - everyone listed a few likes and dislikes, and we had to aim for a 4" square name tag (not the easiest size to work with!!). 

My partner is a fellow Denyse Schmidt addict, so I knew I wanted to use lots of DS prints in her name tag. And from the very beginning I knew I wanted to try something new-to-me - reverse applique. I started by pulling a rainbow of DS prints, cutting 1" strips and piecing them together. 

Next I cut a 4" square of this lined fabric and wrote my partner's name in Frixion marker. I free motion quilted a couple of times around each of the letters and most of the lines on the fabric and then took a very deep breath.

I used a pair of very sharp, pointy embroidery scissors to cut out the inside part of the letters (and accidentally cut a little bit of the underneath fabric on the 'S' unfortunately - but because there is batting under that it stayed put thankfully!) I decided not to bind it - I quilted right on the edge of the white, and then trimmed just outside it, so the rainbow shows on the bottom and top edges.

It was SUCH a fun little project to make - and I'm definitely going to do more reverse applique. It's such a great technique and I'd love to make a 'wholecloth' quilt using reverse applique sometime soon!

We swapped the name tags at our meeting last week, and I managed to get a photo of them all together. Everyone was pretty delighted with their tags (understandably, they were all seriously fantastic!)

I was particularly delighted with mine - made by my friend Briony at Frangipani Fabrics (where I teach and work). It is just so me, and I can't wait to wear it at our meetings :o)

I'll be back in a few days with another recent finish (once it has reached it's new home!!)

xx Jess