2015 Challenge pieces and show and tell

8 07 2015

A bit of background… Since 2009, five of us have participated in an annual 4-day retreat down south, where we get to hang out, sew/quilt, laugh, sew some more, tell off-colour and groan-worthy jokes, play, sew some more, laugh even more, eat good food, etc. It’s a delightful break in the middle of the year and the middle of our winter. And it’s a most wonderful time spent with cherished friends. I highly recommend such a weekend to anyone!

To give some focus to the weekend, a challenge is set the previous year that we have to make and keep secret until the reveal at our retreat weekend.

Details of this year’s Challenge and the process for making my piece are here: https://rhondabracey.com/2015/07/04/2015-challenge/

Here are the pieces the five of us made, with my recollections of how they relate to something QI (quite interesting) about the history of quilting.

F chose the colour blue to use in her quilt and that colour was passed on to me to use in mine. F received ‘burgundy’ from M to use in her quilt. F’s quilt represented the Amish quilting tradition, which came out of Wales, the Netherlands, and Germany. One of the interesting snippets she spoke about related to two fashion houses that have direct connections to these traditions — Laura Ashley, which came out of the Welsh traditional quilts, and Esprit, which houses a collection of old Amish quilts.


F gave me ‘blue’ and I decided to give ‘red’ to B. I incorporated blue and red in a quilt that represents the Gee’s Bend quilting tradition of improvisation and making do with fabric scraps from old work clothes etc.


B took my ‘red’ and passed ‘gold’ on to G. B’s quilt represented two traditions — hexagons and crazy quilting (around since at least the 1770s, but made ‘fashionable’ in the Victorian era and up until the 1930s). B used English paper piecing for the hexagons, then HAND embellished each one with lace, beads, embroidery etc.


G got ‘gold’ from B and passed on ‘black’ to M. G’s quilt looked at the history of our little group — the printed newspaper fabric in the middle has black and white photos of each of us featured alongside the articles! She also added five Dresden plates, also using that newsprint fabric, one for each of us. The gold she had to incorporate was a gold thimble on the main newspaper.


M got ‘black’ from G and passed on ‘burgundy’ to F, completing the circle. M made an ‘underground railroad’ quilt, of several TINY traditional blocks. Supposedly, the underground railroad quilts were coded directions to slaves who were escaping from the US to Canada in the 1800s. She read how each block was part of the message.




Finally, Brian, who set the challenge, revealed his piece, a many-layered photograph he had created, surrounded by a wooden frame he had made. The colour we gave him was ‘pink’, and he used B’s treadle sewing machine as the centrepiece of a history of sewing machines. The background was an enlarged piece of hand-dyed fabric that B had dyed.


All the quilts together on the floor:


Show and tell

After we’ve done the challenge reveal, we get to do ‘show and tell’. Here are some of those pieces.

G’s show and tell pieces:






Ann’s show and tell (Ann is a local quilt shop owner, invited along to join us):




M’s Christmas runner made entirely from Accuquilt Go! Cutter dies:


And B’s finished piece that she started last year:


Other activities from the weekend

While we sew and quilt a lot on our weekend, we also do other stuff. On Saturday night after dinner, G handed out cards coated in a black waxy stuff. Our job was to use a stylus of some sort (satay sticks were ideal!) and scratch patterns in the surface. Great fun! It seems you can buy sets of these cards in the kids’ section in K-Mart or Big W (??) stores in Australia.






I was pleased with my efforts, especially my second one, which emulated the ‘graffiti quilting’ technique made famous by the lovely Karlee Porter:





On Sunday, we had ‘O’ day — we had to incorporate words starting with the letter ‘O’ into the day, e.g. clothing, food we made, etc. We all dressed up! From left, B was an ‘orange oblong [with owl]’, F was ‘on and off’, G was ‘Osama Bin-Liner’, M wore a ‘One-horned mystical creature onesie’, and I was ‘orange is the new black’. Brian took the photo, dressed as an ‘orphan’. The other ‘O’ thing for the day was the ‘odd’ animal tails we wore — you can see two of them on F (zebra) and me (tiger) 😉


G made some shortbread biscuits, shaped and pressed like buttons, and served in an orange plastic pet food bowl (brand new, of course!). Clever!


And M worked on an OMG quilt:


To finish off a fabulous weekend, Helen Godden and her family arrived from Canberra on the Monday. Helen revealed our challenge for 2016, and it looks like a doozy!

See also:

Community Quilt 219

8 07 2015

Cats in window boxes!

I started this cheerful quilt by stitching in the ditch around each house and the window borders within each. Then I just did a large meandering stipple to hold the layers together.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)



Threads used:

  • Top: Isacord ‘Lavender’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 3040)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (cream)


Community Quilt 218

8 07 2015

This Australiana quilt was a bit of a mish-mash of fabrics and elements — there was applique, some embroidered animals, some traditional and modern quilt blocks in the corners, as well as a linen-like fabric in the centre, and weird ghost forms in the white/cream/green border fabric.

How to quilt it? First, I stitched in the ditch around all the blocks, borders, sashing strips, and the appliqued pieces in the centre block. Next, I did some McTavishing in the centre block’s background to make the applique pieces ‘pop’; I also echo quilted around the embroidered animals in that block and then McTavished in there too. For the green leaf fabric, I stitched large leaves going in a zigzag pattern diagonally (about 8 leaves per fabric strip). I did other filler stitches in the remaining corner blocks, then a stylised sun motif in the ghost fabric strips. I repeated the stylised sun motif in the brown border fabric too.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)





Threads used:

  • Top: Rasant (cotton/poly, colour 1630 [was 0861]); Robison-Anton ‘Earthen tan’ (40 wt, rayon, colour 2569)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan)


Community Quilt 217

8 07 2015

Hmmmm… Orange and geometric? That calls for a rounded shape — in this case, BIG ‘overlapping’ spirals, in orange.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)



Threads used:

  • Top: Glide ‘Lava’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 51585)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan)


Community Quilt 216

8 07 2015

As soon as I took this quilt out of the bag, I knew I had to quilt it with stars! So I did. Free-motion stars and loops, in yellow.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)



Threads used:

  • Top: Isacord ‘Citrus’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 0600)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan)


Thread painting Fabulous Mr Fox!

8 07 2015

In the group of photos I had printed onto fabric during the Quilting Adventures workshop I took in March 2015 with Lura Schwarz Smith and Kerby Smith was a gorgeous photo of a fox that I’d found on Flickr. Prior to the workshop, I’d emailed the owner of the photo to get permission to use it for printing on fabric and then ‘painting’ with thread, which he gave.

On my annual quilting retreat this past weekend I finally got around to thread painting ‘Fabulous Mr Fox!’. The techniques for putting this piece together are detailed below the photos.

I had a lot of fun playing with various threads (about 20 different ones) and free motion stitching (on my domestic sewing machine) to get the effect of the fur, and the life in his eyes (no, I don’t know if the fox is a male or female, but I’m calling him ‘Fabulous Mr Fox!’). I used the knowledge I’d gained from Pam Holland’s workshop I’d attended in February 2014 at Empty Spools at Asilomar to do the thread work — starting with the eyes and dark areas first, then adding lighter and lighter threads as I went along. I decided not to stitch the ground, the background, or the body of the fox in the distance, instead concentrating on the face. I also didn’t stitch the muzzle as I wanted it to puff a bit.

I really love how Fabulous Mr Fox! turned out, and I was especially pleased with how I captured his ear on the left side of the photo.

Oh, I got an email from the photographer after I notified him of the completion of this piece and linked to my in progress photos on Flickr. Here’s what he said: “VERY VERY NICE WORK!! I am glad to see your work! I think your friend is happy person. Thank you for using my photo!”

(Click on a photo to view it larger; Note: These photos are big and may take a while to download on a slow connection)










Threads used:


How I put this piece together

To make this piece I used:

  • Floriani Stitch ‘n’ Shape as the heavy duty stabiliser
  • a piece of batting to go between the stabiliser and the top of the piece
  • a piece of batik that I wrapped around the stabiliser and batting, creating the ‘border’ fabric
  • another piece of batik on the back (I only had a fat quarter of the front piece of batik and it wasn’t enough to fully wrap around the piece)
  • approx 20 different threads of various weights and types (trilobal polyesters, silks, rayons, cottons, invisible threads etc.)
  • MistyFuse to fuse the photo in place
  • Elmer’s School Glue to help wrap the batik tightly around the stabiliser

I started with the Stitch ‘n’ Shape cut to the final size, then layered a piece of batting on top of it and cut that to the same size as the stabiliser.

Next, I took the top batik fat quarter and covered the front of the piece, wrapping the top and bottom edges to the back and fusing them in place. Then I wrapped the side edges of fabric to the back and held them in place with a bead of Elmer’s School Glue before heat pressing the glued edges to make them stick.

Back on the front, I trimmed the photo printed on the fabric to the size I wanted, leaving a quarter inch of white fabric surrounding the photo as a framing border top and bottom, and leaving the sides uncut so that I could wrap them to the back (I didn’t want raw edges at the edges of the piece). I applied MistyFuse to the back of the photo, then fused the photo into place on the front, being careful to make sure I had the photo centred vertically on the piece (i.e. same width of the top and bottom ‘border’ fabric). Next, I wrapped the overhanging side edges of the photo to the back, and heat pressed them to seal them to the back with the MistyFuse.

I cut a piece of toning batik fabric the size of the finished piece, then turned and pressed about a half inch hem around each side. I placed this fabric on the back of the piece, ran a bead of glue on each turned-over hem (one at a time), then pressed the backing in place, heat sealing the glue to make sure the backing piece was secure.

Now I was almost ready to start stitching! But before I did, I used invisible thread to stitch a line between the photo and the white framing border, top and bottom. Then I top-stitched the whole piece with some variegated brown/gold thread. The reason for these two lots of stitching was to prevent (as far as possible) warping associated with heavy thread work. That said, I still got some warping, which I fixed at the end with both dry and steam pressing, followed by placing the piece under some heavy books immediately after steam pressing.

The stitching was fairly basic — I started with the black areas (the eyes first), and then added lighter and lighter colours as I went. I mostly free-motion stitched in straight and slightly curved lines as the fur and most other elements in the photo were straight lines.

All told, this piece took about 8 hours to make from start to finish (not including getting the photo onto the fabric). Sizes: Photo: approx. 27 x 40 cm (10.5 x 16 inches); entire piece: approx. 37 x 38 cm (14.5 x 14.75 inches)

See also: