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May 2015

Hello <<First Name>>

With a welcome drop of rain falling over the weekend, seeding is well and truly under way on our farm.  My sewing time is now peppered with requests to 'please run me here' and 'pick me up there' as various bits of machinery is moved about.  

But with the change of season, I've been inspired thinking about all things cosy and naturally that includes beautiful handmade quilts.  So, have you ever made a patchwork quilt?

A small patchwork quilt was one of the the first things I ever sewed.  I was 15 and brand new at driving a sewing machine.  There are lots of mismatched seams and I've even sewn one of the fabric squares in wrong side out but it's still around and now lives on my daughters bed.  I actually love seeing it and remember how far I've come.


So this month's newsletter is all about the steps you take to make your own piece of quilty goodness. Perfection is not the goal here -  lumps and bumps in your fabric and seams are all part of the learning curve.  You'll also never look at a quilt as closely again as when you are sewing it so relax.  It's only you that will pick up on your 'mistakes' and even then they will fade from your mind and eyes with time.  I promise :)

Until next time.  Happy Sewing,  ♥ Sarah

I found this fabulous quilting terms glossary that you might find helpful for any new terminology below.

Step 1. Piecing Your Top

Some people consider quilters quite mad for cutting up perfectly good fabric into small pieces only to sew them back together again but then they miss the satisfaction that comes with creating something with your own hands and heart; something uniquely you.

There are a myriad of patterns and blocks out there but I'd suggest you start with something small-ish for your first one.  Straight lines and large square blocks are best for a beginner quilt project.  It's also amazing how using different fabrics can totally change the feel and look of a quilt so look past horrid fabric choices when looking for a pattern.

Quilting cottons are easily available and can be purchased by the yard/metre or in pre-cut measures such as fat quarters (18" x 20"), layer cakes (10" squares) and jelly rolls (2.5" x 40" stripes).  More advanced quilters may like to try making a memory quilt using unconventional fabrics like baby clothes or t-shirts.
The main thing to remember when piecing your top is to  maintain an accurate seam allowance, usually a scant ¼ of an inch (6mm).  If you keep things even the whole way through, it makes matching your seams that much easier. You might also like to try chain piecing and nesting your seams (as shown above).  It's also important to press your seams as you go.
This quilt uses pre-cut 5" squares also called 'charm squares'.  You can buy them in your local speciality quilt shop or online.  They usually highlight a certain fabric collection so all the patterns match together. 

Step 2. Basting and Quilting the Layers Together

There are three layers to a quilt - the pieced top, a batting or wadding layer to provide warmth and loft, and a backing fabric.  You need to add stitching to keep all those layers together otherwise the layers will shift and move like an ill fitting t-shirt.  You can use safety pins or thread to baste.  There is also an adhesive basting spray but I've tried it not trusting its strength as I wrestle the quilt under my sewing machine needle.
First you need to masking tape your backing fabric onto a hard surface (I use my tile floor and good quality 50mm wide tape). Make your backing 10-15cm wider than your top.  The widest range of quilt backs fabrics I've found was at 1000s of  You want to pull it tight but not out of shape.  Once secured, lay down the batting and then finally the patchwork top.  Start in the middle and smooth everything out towards the edges.  Now place a large safety pin every 6" square (depending on your design, sometimes you'll need even more).  

Where you place them will depend on how you want to quilt - stitch in the ditch, free motion quilting - the various options are described here.  You want to keep them out of the way of your sewing lines.  Once everything is pinned, you can pull up your tape and hopefully you'll get a sense of your finished quilt as the pins will keep everything in alignment.

Tips for Quilting:
  • Use a longer stitch length and a polycotton thread
  • A walking presser foot will feed the thick layers through more evenly
  • Start in the middle and work your way out to the ends
  • Roll your quilt to fit it under the throat of your machine
  • That mono-filament thread (it looks like fishing line) is VERY hard to sew with
  • You may prefer to send your quilt to a long arm quilter in your area - they make the quilting job very easy... highly recommended for larger quilts.  Most can also supply backing fabric and batting.
For a step by step guide with photos -

Step 3. Binding and Finishing

Deep breath as you're almost finished!!!  Now all your layers are secured together, it's time to trim any stray threads and bind those raw edges. Binding is usually done with long strips of fabric joined together to form a frame around your quilt.  I normally cut mine at 2.5" on the straight grain (so straight across the fabric from edge to fold) rather than on the bias (cut across the grain at a 45° angle).  Here are two great tutorials by Alison at Cluck, Cluck, Sew that step you through the process I use.


There are some absolutely fantastic quilting blogs out there... here are a few of my favourites.
The homepage links to the blogs mentioned above - 
Red Pepper Quilts (AUS) -
Cluck, Cluck, Sew (USA) -
My Patchworkd & Quilting Pinterest board -
I only recently discovered Kerra's blog thanks to newsletter subscriber and Helpdesk member Nadene.  She's in Qld and makes fabulous scrappy designs that are simply delightful.  She's also got a great quilt pattern designed for her husband based on his longhorn cattle.
Rachel is in the US and also makes scrappy quilts (hmmm, I'm sensing a pattern here!).  I love her blog for all that colour and the inspiration she provides of her modern style fabric combinations.  Check out her very comprehensive tutorials page too.
Under the hashtag of #boyssewtoo, enter Mollie Sparkles.  He is in Sydney and recently coordinated his community to create he most amazing quilts using hash tag blocks in response to the Martin Place tragedy.  His No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee (#NGAQB) also made me smile.

Hunting for Ladybugs Housekeeping

I'll be sending my newsletters to you more regularly from now on, moving from monthly to fortnightly.  I'd love to answer any burning sewing questions you've got as part of that so please reply and let me know if there is anything you'd like me to answer.  This is a very inarticulate way of saying 'Please let me help you' :)

I'm also very keen to teach this pillow project as a face to face class in and around WA.  If you're interested in putting a group of 6-8 people together in your town, I'd be happy to come and teach you 'Quilt As You Go'.  

Click the image if you'd like to purchase the pattern for yourself (Etsy listing)

p.s. Well done on getting all the way to the end!
About Sarah

I live in rural Western Australia.  I love living in the country; there are so many things that I enjoy about the rhythm of life out here. When I finally pull myself out from behind my sewing machine, you’ll find me tending a sadly neglected garden with a G&T in hand while the kids bounce on the trampoline. I may also be found occasionally in the sheep yards helping my farmer husband.

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