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Awesome Ocean Sampler - making Octavian Octopus

Awesome Ocean Sampler - making Octavian Octopus

Octavian is the block we are tackling in the second instalment of our Awesome Ocean Block of the Month and I'm the first to admit I was oh-so-wrong about him. Honestly - I wasn't  all that excited and these little guys were my least favourite block when I first saw Elizabeth Hartman's Awesome Ocean sampler pattern.  

Octavian snuck up on me and worked his charms though.  He and his mates are not only sweet, but also really fun to make.  It was also awesome (sorry - I just couldn't resist) to see the Reef fabrics combined with the Kona cotton and Essex yarn-dyed coordinates for the first time.

Lets get making!

Octavian has lots of different shapes of shapes to cut; more than were needed to make the Kelp blocks, so I labelled small Post-It notesfor the pieces 'A - K' and stuck them to the top of my cutting mat.  As I cut each piece from the different fabrics I stacked them in the relevant pile.  Once I finished cutting the fabrics for all eight of the Octavian blocks, I pinned all of the pieces and the lable together.

Leave the fabrics in these labelled groups, as it will speed things up when chain piecing.

The diagrams in the pattern booklet are pretty self explanatory and Octavian's head and shoulders went together like a dream. 

Is it just me?  Does Octavian look like an alien without his legs?

See what I mean?

Don't get those legs in a tangle

 The legs are the part where you will want to stop and take a good look at the fabric placement in the original and make sure you end up with the angles going the right way.

I divided the leg pieces F - H into two for each Octavian block and chain pieced the background squares (J) in one direction.

Once I'd completed the first half,  I layed them out for a visual check before starting on the rest.

Next I reversed the stitching angle and completed the rest of the legs.

Once I had trimmed and pressed I then stitched the leg unit together by constructing two halves first. 

Piecing the legs as two units like this, instead of working from one side to the other., helps you make a neat rectangle instead of a wonky parallelogram which will cause issues down when you join the head unit.

Once the leg unit is together, bingo!  You are only one seam away from your very own little octet of Octavian Octopi.





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The Collection Quilt - stitching collection 4 & new places in our BOM program

The Collection Quilt  - stitching collection 4 & new places in our BOM program

You guys!  

The Collection Quilt Block of the Month has been so popular that I've opened up a few more places  If you've been thinking about joining us, now is the time.  You can sign up here

This month we are working with  different substrates again as I've included the heavier weight of one of the prints from the Euclid collection on Essex linen.  

I know I've been banging on to everyone about changing things up with the placement and selection of fabrics, but this month I  decided to stay fairly true to the way Carolyn Fridlander manipulated the flow of colours across the panel.

preparing the fabrics

The grey bone fragment print from Carkai is lighter in value than the fabrics in the original, but I enjoyed the definition it gives to the scallops.  I was also pleased with the punch of colour from that saturated  blue-green Freidlander print, and the solid foundation of the Kona Windsor at the bottom. 

Its up to you how you lay your panels out, but I like the way that navy solid acts as a bridge with the blues in the panel underneath from Collection 6.  

I thought you might find it useful to see the fabrics that will be coming in that neighbouring panel - so here's a sneak peak.

collection quilt colour flow

  My tips this time are pretty basic:

  1. Don't forget to press your fabrics first so that you are working with the correct fold lines when prepping your panels.    In the photo at the very top I had pretty much just pulled the fabric out of the pack.  I did press them before I went any further though.
  2.  Also, be careful cutting.  I had worked out my colours, but then lost track of which were for applique and which were going to be background as I worked.  All I can say is that it is lucky I am surrounded by bolts of fabric!  There was a big booboo :-l

We've had plenty of practice stitching curves so far on this project.  I'm pretty happy with the way mine have improved as I've gone along.  The new technique this month was learning to stitch those interior points.  

I actually found them OK.  Just take your time and study the photographs in your pattern leaflet.

Actually, now that I think of it I do I have a third tip:

3. Take particular note of the diagram which illustrates clipping into the seam allowance at that inverted point.  It is a little hard to see as the colours are dark; but pretty much you only want to clip a scant amount - no more than half way in towards your line of basting stitches. (I wish I thought to take a photo of mine as I worked to show you!)  If you clip any deeper you will end up with a bit of a hairy mess, with stray threads wanting to escape.

 Happy applique everyone

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Quicker by the Dozen pattern review and trying new techniques

Quicker by the Dozen pattern review and trying new techniques

Its been a busy few weeks with so many new fabrics arriving and kicking off not one but two block of the month programs.  I've managed to sneak a little time at the machine though and I've  made a start on the new Cotton and Steel Quicker by the Dozen quilt.

 The designer Lynette Jensen is one of the most experienced quilt designers, pattern and BOM writers in the business.  Put your hand up if you were sewing her Thimbleberries patterns in the late nineties and early noughties?  I sure was! The Quicker by the Dozen booklet is really well laid out, with step by step instructions and handy tips and diagrams.

Despite I all this, I had a problem.

I dived straight in and, to be honest, didn't read the instructions properly before I started making those half square triangles (HSTs).  I was half way through making them when I noticed that the instructions advised making them a different way.

At that point I decided to experiment a little: do some both ways and see which I liked best.

On the left you can see my normal method of making HST  units.  I cut the squares to the required size, mark a diagonal line and then sew a scant 1/4 inch seam either side.   On the right I you can see where I started to follow the pattern. (I was rolling my eyes at myself at this stage for not following the instructions)

The pattern's method involved ironing the aqua and grey strips together.  After pressing you then cut the strip set into squares and then cross cut the squares diagonally giving free triangles that were already paired up and ready to sew.  There were a couple of things I liked about this method:

  • the pressing stage sort of made the fabrics stick together
  • you avoid marking that diagonal line


Those triangles are fairly small.  It may have been in part due to air movement from the  ceiling fan (its still pretty hot here in Qld), but I found by the time I got them to the machine the triangles wouldn't stick together all that well.  Also, as I ran those points under the foot I found it hard to maintain the correct angle.

This is a very long winded way of saying that my accuracy, and ability to produce nice square units had gone right out the window.  I binned the few I had made and went back to sewing either side of that line.   The technique described in the pattern is worth giving a go, but I will probably save it for when I am making larger units - say 3.5 or 4".

HST block

I hate trimming and would definitely prefer to cut once and sew accurately, but I know that a lot of you out there prefer to square up and trim your blocks after stitching.    I also know a lot of quilters who hate cutting units that require 3/8ths or 7/8ths of an inch measurements. 

 If you freak out at the thought of either of these things, just cut them bigger and trim after sewing. There is plenty of fabric supplied, so I think you should just go for it and make these babies using the method you're most comfortable with. 


I wrote about this a few months back, but I think it is worth mentioning here again.  A couple of years ago, after more than 20 years of quilt making, I started to press my seams open.  The pattern \says to press them closed with the bulk of the seams to the dark side.but why not give open seams a go?

I'm not going to sugar coat it.  Pressing seams open on small units like these little HSTs is a bugger of a job.  I started by opening the seams up with the Clover finger presser first (that little white gadget).  It is fantastic and makes it so much easier once I get to the ironing board.  No more burnt fingers - yay.

Seams pressed open is totally worth the little bit of extra effort. Without fail your blocks will be flat and super smooth.  Most importantly you wont get those ridges in your quilt top.  I have plenty of quilty pals who shudder  at the thought, as the closed seams are supposedly more secure and prevent wadding fibres from working their way through.

 That may have been true even 20 years ago but the quality of  waddings available these days is vastly superior.  Also - how many antique quilts are there that have been made using English paper piecing?  All of those seams are open!

 Once again, if you've not tried it - why not give it a go?

Last of all, here's a sneak peak of what's in store for months 1-4   Don't forget to show off  your progress.  Cotton + Steel have kicked things off using the #blockonawall hashtag so get cracking people and start snapping.  Don't forget to also use #nextstitchfabrics so I can find you .  

I will be photographing my blocks on the wall of the shop.  Its clad in corrugated iron and I think its such an iconic building material here in Australia.

If you are interested , we still have places available in the program.  The first month is $65 to cover the cost of the pattern booklet, and then decreases to just $45 a month for the rest of the program.

Not in Australia?  No problem!  Just email us and we will work with you to find the most economical shipping option.

block on a wall



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Starting the Collection Quilt - month 1

Starting the Collection Quilt - month 1

I have been itching to start this project since l  first saw the patterns at Australian Quilt Market late last year.  The Collection Quilt block of the month is an applique skill builder project, designed by Carolyn Friedlander.

Collection Quilt block of the month

We've included a lot of fabrics from Carolyn Friedlander's more recent collections, including Carkai, Friedlander and Euclid.Whilethe fabrics we will be using aren't identical, the completed quilt will have a similar look and feel.  This week our first shipment of the brand spanking new Freidlander lawns and quilting cottons arrived so we have now kicked off the program.  Patterns and fabrics for Month 1 are now on their way to members.

The project is divided up into 9 installments, and each month there are new colours and fabrics to explore and a new needle turn applique technique to explore.

This month we are working with low volume prints from Carolyn's Euclid and new Freidlander fabric collection. We have supplied larger cuts, and an additional choice of fabric than actually required to complete this section of the quilt.  We did this deliberately  so that our program members can mix it up a bit and personalise their fabric choices.  Hang onto those scraps - as you might want to weave some of them in later too.

collection quilt low volume

I will be stitching along with everyone each month and sharing my Collection Quilt journey here.  For my low volume block I opted to use all three fabrics, and made sure that some of that gorgeous pickle from that aerial print was in the centre panel.  I'm hoping that using part of the silver grove motif from the same fabric in the top section will create the illusion of continuity and perhaps even prompt the viewer to stop for a second look at this quieter section of the quilt.

I was so keen to start that I took it along and completed my basting while waiting with Mum in a hospital waiting room this morning.  Good thing hand sewing is so portable.

I made good progress in a short period of time, and even made a start on the applique.  There's a bit of a bump in my first straight line attempt, but I can live with it.   After all it is a skill builder isn't it ;-)


Next month we will be diving into some colour with more Euclid linens and peachy  Kona cottons.  Here's a sneak peek.

Collenction quilt block of the month2

We are waiting to take delivery of more patterns, so we've opened up some more spots in the program for $35 per month, for 9 months. Join now and come stitch with us. 

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