MacGyvering a design wall

15 07 2018

I really needed a decent design wall in my sewing room. I’d been making do with a ‘portable’ one I’d created from the Australian equivalent to foam core board, which I’d bought some years ago from a picture framing business.

(Aside: Australian hardware stores don’t sell foam core board; in fact it’s very hard to get here. Why? Because we build and insulate our houses differently to those in the US. Most housing in my state is double brick outer walls, with single brick inside walls. We don’t build with timber, though some cheaper houses may have an internal timber frame, and many have timber struts/frames for the roof, though steel is more common in newer houses. Our insulation tends to be ceiling insulation [not wall — it just doesn’t get that cold here] and comes as batts or blown-in fibrous material. As a result, it’s almost impossible to buy the sort of ‘foam core board’ that’s readily available in US stores such as Home Depot.)

I’d been toying with the idea of creating my own design wall based on something I’d seen on the internet (see: And I finally got around to it. Off I went to Bunnings (the Australian equivalent of Home Depot), and purchased several sheets of acoustic panelling (principally used for pin-up/bulletin boards) in various sizes, then wrapped them in batting, stretching then stapling the batting down, and finally using duct tape to cover the staples on the back. Next, I stuck down some 3M Command Strips (the ones that hold 7 kg weight) on the back—one at each corner, so theoretically capable of a 28 kg load per design wall panel.

Then I stuck the two narrow panels to the wardrobe door in my sewing room (using every available space!), and the 3 larger panel to the only spare wall in my sewing room. Finally, I pinned up some of my art quilts—both finished ones that I can’t hand anywhere else, and those in progress.

I’m pleased with the result! And so far (several week on), the Command Strips are holding up beautifully.

Community Quilts 396 to 411

15 07 2018

I’ve been busy with all sorts of things in the past couple of months, so while I’ve quilted 15 quilts and taken photos of them, it wasn’t until today that I got around to processing the photos and putting them up on this blog. Because I’ve forgotten what I did and what threads I used for most of them, I’ve put all into this one post. I’ve only made comments for any that were exceptional for some reason.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)

Community Quilt 396

Community Quilt 397

Community Quilt 398

Community Quilt 399

Community Quilt 400

Community Quilt 401

Community Quilt 402

Community Quilt 403

Community Quilt 404

Community Quilt 405

For this one, I used one of templates designed by Cindy Needham for the star pattern in the blocks.

Community Quilt 406

I used more of Cindy Needham’s templates for the flower motif in the borders, and for the sweeping curves in the outer border. I then echoed the sweeping curves, crossing over them to create a ribbon effect.

Community Quilt 407

Community Quilt 408

Community Quilt 409

Community Quilt 410

Community Quilt 411

This quilt was similar to #400 (above), with all that candlewicking. As with #400, I stitched around each of the main embroidery lines, then echoed them, then did MacTavishing in the blocks to make the embroidered areas ‘pop’.



Photos of all the Community Quilts I’ve quilted are here:

2018: Annual winter retreat in Bridgetown

10 07 2018

For the past nine years, five quilting friends have gathered in Bridgetown, Western Australia for our annual 4-day winter retreat at the home of one of our group. It’s a weekend away from our normal lives, and a time for us to spend many hours sewing, talking, laughing, eating, drinking, hanging out in our PJs, great food, and roaring log fires. For the past few years since he retired, our host’s husband has been in residence too, so there’s us five, plus our ‘man slave’ (not really—he’s just one of us, though he doesn’t quilt; he plays golf and does woodwork and photography instead). But this year there were just four of us girls—one of our group just couldn’t make it. The pressure of her work meant she had to bail this time, something we’ve sort of expected for a while, as she’s super busy and burns many candles at all ends.

We stopped doing challenges a few years ago as it was getting too much of a time commitment for the two who own quilt stores; I work part-time, so it wasn’t such a stretch for me; and the other two are retired.

This year, I decided to do a stash busting exercise—making Xmas placemats for our state guild’s Community Quilts program. These will go to people in retirement villages and nursing homes, possibly hospitals. So I took all my scrap red, green, and white fabrics, matching backings, and batting scraps with me, and sewed up a storm. I ended up making 25 placemats (all 18 x 12 inches). Most were done using improv methods of joining random bits of fabric, and after making the tops, I backed, sandwiched and quilted them, then finished them off with machine-sewn binding.

Here they are in various stages of completion (click on a photo to view it larger). Below the photos of the placemats are photos of just a small section of the yarn bombing in Bridgetown’s main street for their annual Winter Festival—this year locals made tens of thousands of yarn decorations (I think it was more than 30,000!) and the yarn bombing was even judged for a Guinness World Record! One of the people who coordinated it was Ann, the owner of Sew Gentle Era, the local quilt and yarn store.

Yarn bombing:


Iggy Marley: Susan Carlson workshop

24 05 2018

The lovely Susan Carlson was in Perth a couple of weeks ago to run a 4-day workshop at Handcrafters House. There were 120 people on the ‘expressions of interest’ list for only 20 places, and I was lucky enough to get a spot! I’d first come across Susan’s unique style of fabric collage some years ago in Quilting Arts magazine and had used her techniques to make a fish. That fish now lives in Alaska! Then in 2014, Susan was one of the teachers at Empty Spools, Asilomar; she was my second choice after Pam Holland (I got into Pam’s class, so they didn’t need to go to my second choice).

For this class, we had to use a photo or drawing, blow it up nice and big, then start cutting out scraps of fabric and gluing them on to create our fabric collage art quilt. In 4 days we made a real mess and had a lot of laughs! There were bits of fabric EVERYWHERE, but I think we had had a lot of fun and pushed our boundaries. Most people went wild with their colour choices, and their subjects ranged from patterns Susan had, through to favourite pets and people. Even a set of work boots and a hard hat!

I love lizards of all varieties, so chose to do an iguana. I found a copyright-free picture in the British Library’s archive of old books and illustrations. The artist had listed the Latin name of the species, which had the common name of ‘Jamaican Iguana’, so I named him ‘Iggy Marley’ — ‘Iggy’ for iguana, and ‘Marley’ because of the Jamaican connection to Bob Marley and his son Ziggy Marley (no, I don’t know if my iguana was a male, but he is now). These Jamaican Iguanas are typically in shades of greens and browns to blend in with the vegetation where they live, but I chose to go wild and do him in oranges and purples — I want him to stand out against the background, once I choose it.

Some of the photos of my process and progress are below. Iggy’s not finished yet, and it might be a while before I get back to him. Deciding on the background (realistic or stylistic) is my hardest issue with him right now. But for the moment, I’m pretty pleased with how he looks, though I might change the green on his ‘crop’ and instead do an orange folded piece…. decisions, decisions….

(Click on a photo to view it larger)

See also: Susan’s blog post about this class and her time in Perth:


Empty Spools, Asilomar, 2018

19 04 2018

One of the Empty Spools quilt retreat weeks locked in nicely with my conference in the US, so I booked in for Cindy Needham’s class on free-motion quilting, her style (see

And what a class it was! Cindy is a delightful teacher, extremely willing to share her knowledge and her magnificent body of work, and it was just a fantastic week with a lovely group of 15 woman from all over the US and Canada, and with me as a ring-in from Australia. We laughed, we shared stories, we helped each other, and we had fun. I even taught them how to eat Vegemite!

Each day started with Cindy talking about a particular aspect of quilting (we started with some basics of needles, threads, tension, batting, etc. and by the end of the 5 days, she was talking about quilting vintage linens, whole cloth quilts, and how she blocks a quilt; along the way we learned how to use stencils and design grids, and how to design the quilting on a quilt, using examples the students brought along). The afternoons were our own to either work on our own projects, or to put into practice some of the techniques she talked about. This was purely a techniques class, not a project class, and it was our sandbox to play in, make mistakes, learn, and enjoy each others company.

Cindy is an early riser, so she had the classroom open by 6 am each day (class officially started at 9, but we could get help from Cindy beforehand), and some of the women worked into the night as well. I was very grateful for the early start — first, I had jet lag the first few days, so it was better to be working than twiddling my thumbs in my room waiting for 9 am, and second I’m an early riser too, so being able to get in an extra hour or two of practice time each day was just wonderful. And we were in the BEST classroom at Asilomar — the Surf and Sand room, which has floor to ceiling windows on three sides and just has the most wonderful light.

Enough talk — let’s get on to the work I created over the 5 days. Remember, these are practice pieces and will likely never see the light of day.


Some other photos from the week:

Community Quilt 395

8 04 2018

I made this quilt top back in February, and got it back for quilting! The spots in many of the fabrics meant it was easy to decide a motif — large circles/bubbles/pebbles in the main top (in yellow thread), then a motif I made up in my head of odd-length ‘pipes’ ending in round shapes (bobble heads?). I quite like the effect of those bobble heads and will likely do them again. And yes, I just coined a name for that motif — ‘bobble head’. You heard it here first, folks!

(Click on a photo to view it larger)

Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Glide ‘Marigold’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 80130); Madeira (40 wt, rayon, colour 1047)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (white)

Photos of all the Community Quilts I’ve quilted are here:

Community Quilt 394

8 04 2018

This was a big quilt, with lots of elements in it. It took several hours to quilt.

How to quilt it? As usual I started by stitching in the ditch around the main elements. For the square corner and centre blocks containing flowers, I stitched a flower motif. Then I followed the log cabin seams in the yellow border, stitching straight lines from one side to the other. Still with the yellow thread, I stitched a single line down the middle of one the yellow borders, and a ‘u’ motif in the other. I left the blue border unstitched.

After switching to a dark grey thread, I stitched a squared-off motif in the large and small black borders, and a small stipple in the setting triangles in the centre block; I left the black borders in the centre unstitched.

Lastly, I switched to pink thread and did a large meandering stipple in the pink border.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)

Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Glide ‘Marigold’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour 80130); Floriani (40 wt, rayon, colour PF488); Robison-Anton ‘Crimson’ (40 wt, rayon, colour 2416)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Magna Glide Classic pre-wound bobbin (light tan, lead gray, candy apple red)

Photos of all the Community Quilts I’ve quilted are here: