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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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Making the Stepping Stones Quilt

Making the Stepping Stones Quilt

There are so many things about making the Steppings Stones quilt by Irene Blanck that were pure pleasure!  The fact that the pattern reminds me of a crocheted granny square rug that my great Aunty Thel made me when I was a child is a bonus.

The fabric pull

The first of all was the the opportunity to play with so many different fabric combinations in each block.  Pulling fabrics for a new project and playing with all of the different combinations is one of my favourite things - like ever!  With so many blocks this is the perfect project to dive into your stash.

To start off with I chose to use many of the fabrics from Rashida Coleman Hale's Raindrop collection and then added in a selection from Heather Jones' Color Dash range for a pop of more saturated colour and because these prints offered further variety in scale and texture. 

Raindrop fabric and color dash fabric

I then added in almost 20 different shades of Kona Cotton solids in oranges, yellows, and blue-greens to tie it all together.


Stepping stones quilt

Playing with fabric combinations

With the two rounds of octagons and the round of joining squares provided so many opportunities to explore the way different colours worked together and the impact of different prints on the block design.  There's a lot of scope for fussy cutting - not that I did much in mine, but I did have fun manipulating a few of the directional fabrics.

There are  plenty of repeats in my quilt, but at the same time I've used over 60 diffferent fabrics.  I chose a bright orange kona solid  for the centre square of my blocks as I wanted a strong pop of colour as it is such a small piece.    While there are other orange prints and solids in the quilt, this is the only place I used that particular shade.

Soothing slow stitches

Running a small business is a lot of hard work.  Despite being surrounded by beautiful fabrics it can be hard to find time to get to my machine and just sew.  Hand sewing is so portable though and I usually manage to find an hour or most evenings.

 In many respects this is an essential part of my day.  Some people meditate, some run, I hand sew to unwind. The Stepping Stones quilt uses the English paper piecing technique, so a perfect hand work project.

Most nights I managed to complete at least one block, so the bonus was that there was also a sense of constantly moving forward.  I also stumbled into a bit of a sew along with a fellow stitcher on Instagram who was also working on her own version of the Stepping Stones quilt.  We would post updates on our feeds and it definitley helped me stay on track.  If youre into EPP but don't follow Michelle, then you should.  You can check out her blog here and she is @michellethequilter on Insta.

Putting it all together

I've used Kona charcoal  for the small setting squares and again for the outer  border.   Even though those squares are tiny, the dark colour makes the blocks pop forward, as if they are floating on the background.  I used the charcoal again for the binding so that  there wasnt' a noticeable edge.

I quickly discovered that while I whipped through making the blocks, sewing these little guys into place  as I joined the rows was pretty tedious.  

So it didn't feel like death-by-grey-squares I begain adding them to each block as I went. Much better!

stepping stones joiners

Finishing touches

I love the texture that dense quilting can add, but there is just so much to look at with this quilt that I decided to keep things pretty simple.  

I have hand quilted straight lines through the round of small squares in each block and in a large grid between each block.  Ive used perle 8 thread  in orange. It is enough to hold the layers together, but not too busy, and lets the different fabric combinations be the hero.

hand quilting

This is a really approachable project and great for diving into your stash and using up some scraps.  If you've never tried EPP before, this is a great project to start on as ther square blocks means it is super easy to adjust the size of your project to suit your needs.  Why not try making just four blocks for a pillow sham?

We've got a starter pack which includes the pattern, precision cut templates and papers here  or even go the whole shebang with one of our quilt kits

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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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Things Carolyn Friedlander taught me to love

Things Carolyn Friedlander taught me to love


I've been making quilts  for over 20 years now, but have had a love hate relationship with a couple of common techniques for what feels like forever.

Late last year I grabbed the opportunity to attend a workshop with Carolyn Friedlander while she was teaching in Australia with both hands.  If it meant I had to suck it up and do some foundation paper piecing, then so be it.  I decided to work on her Shirts Quilt 

Carolyn Friedlander shirts quilt

I've always been deeply impressed by the sharp points and intricate blocks able to be achieved with foundation piecing, but have always battled with those tricky angles. Invariably I would flip that fabric only to find that I hadn't fully covered the segment, or I hadn't left enough seam allowance to be able to continue.  I would get there in the end, but not without a lot of frustration and unpicking.  Lets face it - ripping those tight stitches out through paper is NOT soothing.

I'm not going to sugar coat it - my quick-un-pick came out to play, but Carolyn managed to untangle a lot of unproductive habits I had gotten into.  One of them was to stop skimping on fabric.  I mean to say - I own a fabric store after all!  With a bit of patience my first block came together OK

shirts quilt block

Another great tip I found most useful was to make sure that I started each section off with  fabric that had been trimmed to have a straight edge. All of a sudden my I could begin to judge those pesky angles..  That being said - none of the above stopped me from making the same mistake over and over while I 'merrily' pieced three left hand sleeves for one block!

shirts quilt block fail

 Happily, this project wasn't destined to languish in a neglected state for years on end and I finished it about a month after the class.  With its repeated blocks, the shirts quilt pattern allowed me to cement the tips I'd learnt in class and really begin to nail the technique. It also provided lots of scope to play with a multitude of Kona cotton solids and Carkai fabric combos.

shirts quilt

Needle-turn applique

After seeing student's projects in further workshops with Carolyn in Sydney and Melbourne I was inspired to dive in and have a go at the Hesperides pattern.Hesperides quilt pattern

I love to hand sew.  My first quilt was an entirely hand pieced and hand quilted sampler.  To me it is akin to meditation and each stitch carries away the busy-ness of the work day.  That being said, other than a couple of abandoned baltimore blocks from the 1990s, applique has never given me the itch to stitch.  I've stood at quilt shows and admired the work and technique of others, but I've always been firmly in the 'piecer' camp.

Carolyn Friedlander's applique technique involves basting the applique pieces to the background using an accurate 1/4 inch running stitch

applique technique

This was revolutionary to me.  One of the barriers for me with applique was having shapes move, or distort during the stitching process, as well as the thread tangling around the plethora of pins.  All of a sudden it was fun and with the first shape stitched down I was hooked!

Another dis-satisfaction with previous applique attempts was what felt like a mountain of preparation in marking the design onto the background and then again onto each and every shape.  With its free-form style, this is eliminated with the Hesperides pattern and Carolyns technique.

needle turn applique progress

 It felt like I rocketed through the two cushion covers I set out to make and I'm really chuffed with how they turned out.

hesperides cushions in euclid fabric

I'm already thinking about my next applique project ( I can't believe I just typed that BTW).

I'm sorely tempted by the Everglade and Ebb quilt patterns that we have in stock, but I think I will try to hold out until the new Friedlander and Friedlander lawn collections arrive in store and stitch along with all of the Collection Quilt block of the month members.

The BOM will be $35 / month plus shipping and all of the other details for the program are over on our 'Coming soon' tab

collection quilt block of the month

Carolyn Friedlander has designed the Collection Quilt as a needle-turn applique skill builder and I'm looking forward to consolidating my new applique skills and adding in some new techniques such as concave curves and reverse applique.


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Elizabeth Hartman's Pineapple Farm- pattern review and tips

Elizabeth Hartman's Pineapple Farm- pattern review and tips

Elizabeth Hartman released four new patterns at Fall Quilt Market and we have hard copies of each in store:

  • Pineapple Farm
  • Florence Flamingo
  • Lloyd and Lola (the llamas) and
  • Sleepy Sloth

As with all of Elizabeth Hartman's patterns, they are printed in full colour and there are oodles of really helpful diagrams.  All of the new patterns come with instructions to make up quilts in at least a couple of sizes, and some, like Pineapple Farm have a cushion option as well.

Hands down the Pineapple Farm pattern is my favourite.  I fell for it almost as soon as I saw it in my Instagram feed when launched at Market, so of course the pillow was going to be the first shop sample I made up.  Actually, who am I kidding ?  I think this pillow will be going home and be put to use on the sofa pretty smartly.

I started by making the leaves sections first, and to be honest, there was a bit of head scratching involved.  I was expecting to make reverse angles, similar to making the Hazel Hedgehog blocks, but after a couple of reads through I the penny dropped that there was no need to reverse any of the units.  Once I had my head around this simple fact the tops were easy to construct.  

The leaves for all three pineapple blocks are able to be made out of one Fat 1/8th, however I chose to use scraps of Kona cotton solids in cyan, bluegrass and ultramarine.

When all of the units are pieced together you end up with a odd shaped section which needs to be trimmed back to size. (Please note everyone - I took this photo before I had stitched the final rectangle of background fabric to the sides of these units)

Trimming was pretty simple thanks to the clear images in the pattern leaflet, but its worth taking your time nonetheless.  I think the key here is to give it a really good press before you cut.

The body of the pineapple was super quick and easy to piece. While it looks tricky with lots of angles, the body of the fruit is constructed from simple squares and rectangles.  Once again you construct an odd shaped pieced section which, as for the leaves, gets turned on a 45 degree angle and cut back to the block dimensions.  From here you are only a couple of seams away from you first completed pineapple.

There are no real pinch points as Elizabeth Hartman has created what appears to be a complex block using simple construction techniques.  Clever, BUT, you do end up with  bias edges on every side of your block.  When combined with multiple seams, you need to be careful so that they don't stretch and distort out of shape.  

A couple of tips for dealing with bias edges:

  1. Press, don't iron your seams (ie place the iron down on your block, rather than running over the surface) and if you're not confident, turn off the steam
  2. They are cute as a button, but try not to handle your blocks too much
  3. If making a quilt I would definitely stay stitch around the edge of the entire quilt top. This involves sewing a line of stitching about 1/8" from the edge of the quilt.  Don't worry, this line of stitching will eventually be covered by the binding. 

And finally a couple of tips for selecting your fabrics.  

  1. This pattern is definitely a scrap buster. Elizabeth  Hartman suggests choosing a light, medium and dark fabric from the same colour group for each pineapple.  I played with this a bit and while one of my blocks is uses different shades of green, with the other two I mixed it up a bit.  In fact my favourite  is the blue and yellow one.
  2. I found that the scale of the print is is even more imporant than colour.  In fact I think scale is critical.    As you can see below, I had to remake the pink and green one.  That Melody Miller telephone fabric read as the light print when I was first pulling fabrics, but once cut up it just didn't work well

 While also a larger scale print, I think the cicada fabric from the Cotton + Steel Raindrop collection worked quite well. The difference is that they are tone on tone prints and don't have as much negative space between motifs.

While I am pleased with my fabric choices now that I swapped out that first awful pink block, I think these pineapples made in solids would be fabulous.  The criss-crossing, woven effect of the different fabrics would be much more dramatic  

For those who would like to re-create any of Elizabeth's projects as pictured in the patterns, we will have her new Pond fabric collection in-store in January.




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