Easy cathedral windows quilting motif

19 01 2014

I have LOTS of 2″ squares in my scrappy quilt — probably about 500. As all the fabrics are a mixed bag (batiks, cottons, fabric from old clothes, cheap fabrics, expensive fabrics, stiff fabrics, fraying fabrics, etc.), I wanted to stitch a quilting design that held them all down as much as possible and that secured the seams and joins as far as possible, while also creating a rounded effect against the stark geometry of the squares. I decided on the cathedral window quilting motif (shown finished below), and took photos as I went to explain how to do it super simply.


What I like about this motif is that you get all sorts of sub patterns within it — you get circles, semi circles, flower shapes, and curved diamonds all in the one pattern!

While I could have used rulers to create the arcs, I would’ve spent many hours quilting each block and likely getting frustrated if the rulers moved a little. This quilt is for me to use — it is NOT a show quilt — so my arcs didn’t have to be perfect. The method I describe and illustrate below took me about 15 minutes to stitch in one continuous line — that’s 15 minutes per 1100-square block. And to be honest, the effect is just as dramatic as ruler work if you don’t look too closely 😉

The essence of this motif is the ‘S’ curve — if you can free motion stitch an ‘S’ curve you can do this!

How to create your own cathedral windows:

  1. Start at the top of a block of squares — I started one square in from the edge of the block.
  2. Stitch an ‘S’ curve with the centre of the ‘S’ going through the seam join. I tried to make my curves between 1/4 and 1/2 inch at the fattest point, and arcing relatively evenly throughout the curve. But don’t beat yourself up over this — it doesn’t have to be perfect as the end result still looks good. Just go with the flow of the ‘S’ curve.
  3. Repeat the ‘S’ curve motif all the way down to the bottom of the column of squares.
  4. When you reach the bottom, come back up the column stitching ‘S’ curves in the opposite direction.
  5. You’ll end up with small ovals with pointed ends (like little footballs).
  6. You end up where you started so stitch an arc across to the top of the next column and repeat the ‘S’ curves going down and then back up.
  7. When you’ve finished all the ‘columns’, arc down to the rows and stitch ‘S’ curves across all the rows. Turn the quilt if you find it easier to stitch up/down than left/right.
  8. Stitch an arc at the end of the row down to the next row and repeat….
  9. Repeat until you get to the bottom of the block, then stitch arcs across the bottom and up the left side until you get back to the beginning.

And you’re done! Cathedral window quilting the easy way.

Here’s a diagram in case you learn better this way or want to practice with pen and paper first (explanation below the diagram; the arrows show direction):


  1. Start at the green star position.
  2. ‘S’ curve down the column (solid line with yellow ‘1’ in the diagram).
  3. Come back up the column in the opposite ‘S’ curve direction (dashed yellow ‘2’ in the diagram).
  4. Stitch an arc to the next column (yellow ‘3’).
  5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 for all columns (NOT shown on diagram).
  6. When you’ve finished the columns, stitch an arc to the edge of the block (red ‘1’ in the diagram).
  7. Stitch another arc down to the first row (red ‘2’).
  8. Stitch an ‘S’ curve along the first row (red ‘3’; solid line).
  9. When you get to the end of the row, stitch back in the opposite direction (red ‘4’; dashed line).
  10. At the end of the first row, stitch an arc down to the next row (red ‘5’).
  11. Repeat for the rest of the rows (NOT shown on the diagram).
  12. At the bottom, stitch arcs all the way along the bottom, then up the left side (NOT shown on diagram), back to the start position (green star).

Revamping an old quilt

19 01 2014

I learned to quilt back in the late 1980s. After making a few quilts, I stopped when life, work, etc. got in the way. One of the quilts I made back in the 1980s was this one, photographed in 2006 when our house in Perth was for sale:


There was a lot wrong with it, including the horrible hand-quilted stitches I did in black thread on white. Yes, there was a time when I hand-quilted… long before I knew you could quilt on a machine! The stitches looked OK on the front, but they were shockers on the back. I remember stitching this big quilt inside a 16″ quilting hoop… I must’ve been MAD.

Here are some ‘before’ pictures of this quilt, including the embarrassing stitches on the back:




As I was out of Community Quilts to quilt over the summer break while the coordinator was taking a well-deserved break, I decided to tackle this old quilt to try to breathe some life back into it.

The first task was to stitch in the ditch around all the blocks and all the arms of each star. I started with invisible thread, but it kept snapping, so as my patience was wearing thin, I decided not to persevere with it and swapped to a slightly off-white thread (with black inside the stars).

Once I’d outlined all the main elements, I unpicked much of the hand stitching. That was a thankless task! And very time consuming. I was better than I thought back in the day and had knotted the stitches every six or so, which meant I couldn’t get a run on pulling out snipped stitches from one end. <sigh>

I decided to quilt the start blocks with McTavishing, making sure that I went up to but didn’t go into the little stars. I left the hand stitching on those.


For the main border, I stitched lots of hearts and loops, again leaving the big hearts and the hand stitching for those. I didn’t quilt the black sashing strips or the maroon keystone pieces (in the sashing and the main border).


A couple of things that I noticed when revisiting this quilt:

  • Who knows what batting I used in it! It was quite puffy, so it was probably a polyester wadding. It was puffy in some places, thin in others, overlapping in others (I could feel the overlaps), and non-existent in others mostly at the other border where I had obviously run out!
  • The binding was done with bias strips (who uses those anymore?) and was very uneven. In fact the whole outer border was a bit of a mess, so I didn’t try to quilt it. I left it as it was, though I did stitch in the ditch in the borders.
  • Puckering was obvious once I started quilting. It was probably a result of not cutting correctly on the grain. Where possible I either stitched it into submission or left it if at the outer border.
  • Marks on the fabric. There were a few marks on the fabric that looked like rust. As this quilt has hardly been used, who knows where they came from or how long they’ve been there. I didn’t try to remove them.
  • Colour fastness. I was surprised how well the colours have stood the test of time. None of the fabrics or the black thread appeared to have faded and none of the black thread I removed left any black dye. I doubt these fabrics were made or treated the same way as quilting cottons today, and it’s likely that some were just cottons from a fabric store, not special quilting fabrics.

I was quite pleased with the end result.


Scrappy quilt: The middle

19 01 2014

Well, I only needed 400 squares for my scrappy quilt — 100 for each block. Making it 2 x 3 blocks would’ve made it HUGE, so as I wanted a lap quilt I stopped at 4 blocks (actually I made 5, and intend putting the 5th one on the back as a snuggly place for my feet in winter, like the old quillows).

With the sashing borders, more squares outside the sashing, and the main borders, this quilt is about 64 x 64 inches… plenty big enough for wrapping around me in winter (though it’s hard to think of winter when it’s close to 40C [104F] outside at the moment!).

Here’s a photo of one finished block, with the inner sashing border and the outer squares:


I’ve since added a wider yellow border in the same fabric as the sashing fabric around each block and put it all together ready for quilting. Actually, I started the quilting today, but I won’t take any more photos until I’ve finished it.

While white would have been a better choice to set off the multi-coloured blocks, I decided to use only fabric from my stash and NOT buy any more. I had a few metres of this lovely clear yellow batik I purchased in Bali a year or so ago, and it looked fine when I auditioned it against the blocks, so I went with that. Besides, a quilt that is in heavy use in the living room while watching TV and potentially drinking red wine or eating a snack is just asking for spillage if I did it in white!

The backing fabric as also from Bali, but that will remain a surprise until I finish it and take the photos.

Beautiful glass sculpture

19 01 2014

I saw this beautiful glass sculpture of a stingray at a friend’s new house recently. I love the colours — the iridescence, the shape, the sinuous lines. And the sandstone/limestone block on which it’s mounted just adds to the effect of a stingray flying low through shallow water over the white sand.

IMAG1646  IMAG1645


Summer heat

19 01 2014

I really don’t like the heat of an Australian summer. It may be a dry heat (humidity is FAR worse, in my opinion), but it’s still darned hot. And the threat of bushfires is ever-present.

Last week we had a run of days over 35C, with a couple of days over 40C (105F). One night it was still 33C (91F) at midnight, and according to my car, it was 34C just after 8:30 am the next morning… and rising quickly.


That day the temperature peaked an hour or so later at just a tad under 40C, then the sea breeze same in; the photo below was taken just after the sea breeze started to hit — only a minute or so before my car reported that the outside temperature was 40C. Note that I was very responsible and only took the photos when the car was stopped and pulled over to the side of the road 😉


We’ve got another batch of extreme heat again this coming week. I am forever grateful to Mr Carrier, the inventor of modern air conditioning!