Moondyne country

16 10 2021

I’ve been so focused on the school reunion the past 6 months that everything else has gone by the wayside, including writing a post on the quilting retreat I went to in August, the first I’d been to since early March 2020, just before the first COVID lockdown started. The venue near Toodyay we’d used for many years had sold in the interim so we had to find a new place—somewhere that had suitable accommodation, all meals, and a room big enough to hold about 20 people and all their sewing machines and gear, and not far from Perth. Our intrepid leader found a wonderful place in the Chittering Valley. We were there in mid-August when everything was lush and green and fresh. I think we’ve found our new home! The food was fantastic too. (However, I won’t be attending any retreats there in the summer months because of the bushfire risk—there’s only one road in and out and it goes through a national park for several kilometres, so the risk for me is too great.) By the way, the area is called Moondyne, named after Moondyne Joe, a notorious Western Australian bushranger who hid out in the area evading capture.

I’d pretty much lost my sewing/quilting mojo for the past 12 months, so this was a chance to see if it would come back, even just a little, and it did. That said, I haven’t touched what I made since I got home, but the reunion stuff has taken up an awful lot of my hours around my paid work. The reunion is next weekend, so my commitment will reduce to almost nothing once all the event photos are sorted out and shared.

Here are some photos of the venue (on about 1000+ acres, and overlooking the Avon River WAY down below; yes there are a LOT of kangaroos!) and the improv quilt top I put together over the 4 days.

late afternoon drinks on the veranda, with the afternoon sun casting a beautiful low over the people seated in the picture

Valley view down to the Avon River; many kangaroos grazing on the hillside

Avon River in full flow across rapids

Valley view down to the Avon River

Valley view across to the Avon Valley National Park

first quilt blocks partially completed -- purples and deep blues with splashes of yellow fabric

quilt top partially completed -- all aquas and purples with splashes of yellow fabric

quilt top completed -- all aquas and purples with splashes of yellow fabric

drinks on the veranda in the late afternoon, overlooking the green valley down to the Avon River

in the large conference room, set up with tables suitable for sewing

in the large conference room, set up with tables suitable for sewing

in the large conference room, set up with tables suitable for sewing



Rhythm quilt top

9 10 2020

I just finished making a quilt top, using a pattern called ‘Rhythm’ from Lo & Behold Stitchery:

I used a white spotted batik for the sashing and borders, and many hand-dyed pink/purple fabrics that my friend Flora gave me a few months ago, plus some batiks and similar fabrics in the purple/pink colourway to make up the 16 different fabrics needed.

This top is classed by the pattern maker as a ‘small throw’ but it’s actually quite big, with the completed top finishing around 60 x 64 inches.

Next steps: Find a suitable backing fabric, sandwich it with batting, quilt it, then bind it. I’ll likely bind it with a combination of the remaining pieces of the purple/pink fabrics, perhaps scattered with some of the white. Or maybe just all white, as I have enough (I think!).

Quilt top in layered rows of graduated pink, purple and white fabrics

Online workshop: Improv BOM

20 09 2020

Back in April I was meant to be in Texas for a week-long quilting workshop (a short detour on my way to Utah for my conference). Of course, none of that happened, but the teacher of the workshop, Sheila Frampton-Cooper, has now segued into online teaching and recently started her first improv quilting course, a block-of-the-month (BOM) course over 12 months. But these aren’t traditional blocks—they are improv blocks and the first lesson (over several 10-min videos) showed us how to do freeform curved piecing, WITHOUT pins, and the more usual straight pieced blocks. I’m familiar with straight pieced blocks as I’ve made a lot of improv quilt tops using scraps, and all have involved straight piecing.

With the lockdown restrictions in place in California where Sheila lives, she’s done it all herself—all the filming (3 cameras!), sound, lighting, mixing/editing, etc.—and the result is fantastic and super professional! I watched her first lessons for Month 1 on Friday and made my first blocks this weekend. My DH reckons they look like licorice allsorts, and I have to agree!

Sheila’s Improv BOM class is here:

blue, green, red, orange, yellow and navy/black fabrics

My colour palette; the ‘black’ is a very dark navy/black

My first two straight pieced blocks


My first curvy pieced blocks

Licorice allsorts! (Photo attribution: By Ali K – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Community Quilts 484 to 496

24 08 2020

The latest batch of community quilts are now quilted and ready to go back to Perth for binding and distribution to charitable organisations. I’m NEARLY at 500!

(Apologies for the shadow lines through them. Unfortunately, the best place to hang them is on the clothesline outside and in full sun, but that means that the other lines cast shadows over the photos.)

Community Quilt 484

Community Quilt 485

Community Quilt 486

Community Quilt 487


Community Quilt 488

Community Quilt 489


Community Quilt 490


Community Quilt 491


Community Quilt 492


Community Quilt 493


Community Quilt 494

Community Quilt 495


Community Quilt 496

Fabric face masks

23 07 2020

A few Aussie friends outside Western Australia have reached out to me privately about the face masks I made for family oh so long ago back in mid-April. So, I’ll summarise it all here so that it’s in one place:

  • Pattern: This is the Leah Day pattern I used: It makes a three-fold surgical style mask (with a pocket for a removable filter medium), with either tape ties (for kids) or elastic (for adults). She has two pattern sizes (kids and adults), and there’s a video as well as written instructions.
  • Fabric: If you’re making your own, quilting batik is best as it’s a high-weave cotton, followed by general quilting cottons, followed by everything else. When I say quilting batiks or cottons, I mean the good stuff, NOT the low-weave cheap fabric you can buy at the big store starting with S. Find your local quilt store/fabric shop and you’ll have a treasure trove of fabrics awaiting you! If you can’t find a quilting fabric store locally, then many do online orders, and I recommend two in Western Australia: Handcrafters House in Midland (; phone 08 9274 4955), who have an online shopping facility, and Craft Collections (Mummery Cres, Bunbury; phone: 0419 616 714). Further afield is Sew Gentle Era (Bridgetown), Cotton Rose (Vasse), and The Blue Box (Busselton)
  • Other bits and pieces: I used chenille pipe cleaners (available at the S store in the aisle where they have the kids’ crayons etc.) cut in half for the wire inside the mask over the nose area, but you can also use stretched out paper clips (just remember to fold the ends in on both so they don’t pierce the fabric; use pliers to make that job much easier!). Elastic can be any type, as long as it’s fairly narrow (again, the S store has elastic), and tape for kids masks can be made from woven cloth tape (typically about 12 mm wide; the S store calls it ‘header tape’ and it’s kept near the ribbons in my local S store) or fabric strips.

Update January 2022: Who knew that two years later we’d still be needing masks? I found another pattern that’s easier to put together than the surgical-type one above, fits the face better, has 3 layers of fabric, a pocket for a filter, and can be easily scaled for men and children. There’s a YouTube video that gives good instructions for it too.

Bobbin tension not quite right

19 07 2020

I rarely have trouble with bobbin tension on my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen (I use Jamie Wallen’s method here:, but it was playing up a bit this morning. I was still getting good stitch formation, but found I was having to keep loosening the top tension. I checked the bobbin case and it was threaded correctly, but it was a bit too loose. I initially tightened the bobbin case screw, but then I noticed something—the outer tension ‘spring’ didn’t seem to be sitting flat and locked in.

I’d cleaned it out with a business card when I finished quilting yesterday (one of the things I do when I clean and oil the machine at the end of the day). On closer inspection, with my magnifying glasses on, I saw that the bottom ‘hook’ bit wasn’t quite in properly (see where the red arrow is pointing in the photo below). I gently pushed it with a small screwdriver and it snapped into place.

Bobbin tension issue solved!

Slippery thread: When a thread net just doesn’t work

28 06 2020

I had a spool of very slippery thread that continually unwound itself and slipped off the spool (a variegated Wonderfil Silco 40 wt, in case you’re curious). I wanted to use it on a quilt, but it just tangled as it came off the spool. So I put a thread net over the spool to try to tame it. That helped a little bit, but not a lot—instead of falling off the spool, the thread now tangled after it left the thread net and as it went through the tension disks on my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen, and then it would either snap or cause little blips of thread on the back of the quilt. It was frustrating because I had to check and adjust the flow of the thread through the thread path to the needle every few seconds. For a large lap quilt, that got old fairly quickly! There had to be another solution, short of throwing this spool into the bin (and believe me, I wanted to throw it into the bin several times, but the colours in the thread were a perfect match for my quilt).

Hmmm…. what to do…. I needed something that guided the thread out through a small hole but it had to be big enough to hold the spool with the lid closed. What could I Macgyver?

To the rescue: A plastic vitamin container with a lid, a sharp-pointed knife, and a thick metal skewer (like you use on the BBQ for kebabs). I used the sharp knife to make a small hole in the centre of the lid from the underside, then gently pushed the skewer through (again, from the underside of the lid) so that the hole was big enough for the thread to pass through without catching, but no too big. Then I used the knife to cut an X on the underside of the container, again using the skewer to open up that hole. This hole needed to be bigger as I needed to be able to push it down onto the spool pin on my machine so that it sat snugly on the spool platform. I pushed the container onto the spool pin, put the thread spool into the container on the pin, grabbed the end of the thread and threaded it through the hole in the lid, then screwed the lid onto the container. Done!

So, how did it work? Quite well and much better than the thread net. I still had the occasional tangle, but these were manageable. Problem solved!

Price gouging

4 06 2020

Talk about price gouging!

I know that tourism providers are hurting badly and reeling from the impact of COVID-19, and that our state’s borders are still closed, which means we can holiday in our own state but not elsewhere in Australia or overseas. And those from other states and overseas can’t come here yet. Our state’s tourist people are actively encouraging us to explore and holiday in our big state.

But why would you when you encounter exorbitant price gouging like this?

Back in Feb, I found an ideal Airbnb place about 2 hours north of Perth that looked perfect for the annual quilting retreat with my friends. At the time the price for booking the whole house for 4 people for 4 days in July or Aug was $200/night + $200 cleaning fee and $155 service fee (whatever that is), so a total of $1155 (~$288 each). Fast forward to today when I looked again at the same place, also 4 people, 4 days, late Jul or mid Aug (and any other date I put in outside school and pubic hols for the next 9 months) — the price has now jumped to $724/night + $200 cleaning fee + $480.79 service fee, for a total of $3575.80 (~$894 each) — more than a 300% increase!

That’s a BIG NOPE from me.

Gloria Loughman retreat: The Abstract Landscape

3 06 2020

Better late than never! I attended a 4-day residential retreat with Gloria Loughman in early March 2020, just before the world went to hell in a handbasket with the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. I forgot to blog about it!

The theme was ‘The Abstract Landscape’ and we could use one of our own photos for inspiration, or one of Gloria’s patterns. Gloria also had hand-painted and hand-dyed fabric for purchase, or we could use our own fabric—commercial fabric and/or fabric we painted on the first day of the retreat. I used my own fabric with some from the piece I painted. The inspiration for my piece was a group of photos taken by others during Australia’s devastating bushfires in December 2019/January 2020. I didn’t use one particular photo, instead getting inspiration from the colours and silhouettes in them all.

Much of what we did is now lost from my memory (the changes in our world in the next few days, weeks, and months after the retreat dominated everything and so the details are now gone). But we did start with painting our 1 m pieces of white fabric. Because I knew I was going to do something based on fire, I painted an array of sunset colours from yellow through to deep orange. Once dry, we cut strips of fabric for our background from both our hand-painted fabric and any commercial fabric we were using and lightly stuck these down on another piece of 1 m white fabric, moving them around as required. I think freezer paper was involved.

Yellow/gold/orange fabric strips laid out to create the background

We kept building up our background, then added foreground details. My foreground was the burnt trees of the bush, and that’s where I thought I’d finish.

Background all done and sihouettes of blackened and burnt trees added, but it was still missing something


I then added batting and backing and quilted the piece just using straight-ish horizontal lines across the background and leaving the trees unquilted (except for some very close top-stitching to secure them safely to the quilt). But it was missing something to give perspective and the sense of enormity and hopelessness of these fires. So I hunted out a silhouette image of a kangaroo in full flight and added it in.¬†Finally, I used Robbi Joy Eklow’s facing technique to finish the quilt.

I’ve called it ‘Run for your life’ and it’s for sale (I’ll add it to my Etsy store in the next few days). It’s an art quilt ready for hanging and is 57 x 44 cm / 22.5 x 17.25 inches.


Close up of part of the background and the horizontal quilting

Community Quilts 477 to 483

2 06 2020

I’ve been a bit slow with the Community Quilts posts. First, there was a change of CQ coordinators in our state’s guild (that always delays things as new people coming into the role get familiar with what needs to be done), then there was a lack of prepped quilts (i.e. sandwiched, pin basted, bagged, ready to quilt), then there was the issue of getting the prepped quilts to me, and then me returning them (our state’s internal regional ‘borders’ were all closed for a month or so, and it was only 2 weeks ago that I could go to Perth from where I live). At a personal level was the discombobulation that I’m sure many have felt throughout March, April, and May as world and local events changed rapidly as a result of responses to COVID-19. I know that I couldn’t focus on many things I would normally do as a form of relaxation, such as quilting.

Anyhow, once my brain was in a better place, I knocked off these seven and was able to deliver them to Perth a week or so ago when I picked up my new sewing machine (a Pfaff Performance Icon). I also collected another two bags of quilts for quilting, so hopefully I won’t take so long with those.

Community Quilt 477

Community Quilt 478

Community Quilt 479

Community Quilt 480

Community Quilt 481

Community Quilt 482

Community Quilt 483